Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Garnett Ruskin Wolseley - Picking Bluebells
Price Realized £82,850
signed 'G Wolseley' (lower right)
oil on canvas
48 x 64½ in. (121.9 x 163.8 cm.)
London, Royal Academy, 1911, (as Bluebells?)
Arriving in Newlyn in 1908, Garnet Wolseley mixed with the circle of students in the teaching atelier run by Stanhope and Elizabeth Forbes.1 He participated in the fancy dress pageants staged by Caroline and Thomas Cooper Gotch and acted as a model for Harold Knight.2 Although he occupied the studio once used by Frank Bramley in the 'rue des beaux arts', Wolseley avoided the stark 'photo-realism' of its former tenant. At this point the Newlyn School had entered its 'Impressionist' phase and Harold Harvey, Laura Knight and Harold Knight were taking the leading roles. Carefree children, rather than fisherfolk, were the models of choice. A pantheistic vision prevailed as Wolseley and his colleagues responded to a series of remarkable summers. Flowering meadows, sunlit headlands, calm seas and cloudless cobalt skies prevailed in a wonderland of picnics, hide and seek and skylark song. 'Never have I known such a succession of bluest golden days', Wolseley wrote to his mother in 1909, 'The grass has all turned to flowers - so have the hedges. The air is trembling with bird music and is sweet as honey...'3 In such a mood of exaltation the young artist painted Picking Bluebells.
Although it matches the pattern set by the Knights, the picture infers a range of contacts beyond the west Cornwall artist community. Painters in the north, Frederick Stead, Mark Senior and Stanley Royle for instance, were painting flowering meadows and bluebell woods. Nevertheless, Wolseley and Harvey shared the same models and it is likely that the girls in the present picture are those who appear in several of the Cornish artist's works. As in Harvey's work, they idle in the meadow, picking wild flowers.
The larger world was alive with colour and the Newlyn infection had spread even to the precincts of the Royal Academy where the clarion call to even greater radicalism - that, according to Munnings, of 'Roger Fry and futurism' - went, for the most part unheeded.4 For younger painters such as Hilda Fearon and Dorothea Sharp, the hedonism of Wolseley's honey-sweet woodland, his innocents picking bluebells, was good enough.
1 Wolseley was the son of a vicar who studied under Hubert von Herkomer, before obtaining a scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art in 1902; for further reference see John Wilcox introd., Garnet Wolseley, 1884-1967, 2005, (exhibition catalogue, Court Gallery, Somerset), n.p.
2 Laura Knight, Oil Paint and Grease Paint, 1936 (Penguin pbk ed., vol 2, 1941), p. 183.
3 Wilcox, 2005, n.p.
4 Quoted in Dame Laura Knight, The Magic of a Line, 1965, (William Kimber and Co), p. 83.
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