According to academic and writer, Robert Macfarlane, British popular culture is currently in the grip of an obsession with the eerie nature of the English countryside. Writing in The Guardian (10.4.15), Macfarlane observes that :
Among the shared landmarks of this [cultural] terrain are ruins, fields, pits, fringes, relics, buried objects, hilltops, falcons, demons and deep pasts….. suppressed forces pulse and flicker beneath the ground and within the air (capital, oil, energy, violence, state power, surveillance), waiting to erupt or to condense.
In music, literature, art, film and photography, as well as in new and hybrid forms and media, the English eerie is on the rise. A loose but substantial body of work is emerging that explores the English landscape in terms of its anomalies rather than its continuities, that is sceptical of comfortable notions of “dwelling” and “belonging”, and of the packagings of the past as “heritage”, and that locates itself within a spectred rather than a sceptred isle.
Interpreting British landscape art ‘in terms of its anomalies rather than its continuities’ is an interesting perspective and one that I shall bear in mind as I revisit works by the often overlooked landscape artist, Leslie Moffat Ward (1888-1978). Ward’s art is the subject of a new exhibition, English Idyll, opening on Saturday, 25th April, at St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire and continuing until Saturday, 6th June.
Given the renewed interest in British landscape art, this retrospective of Ward’s work could not be more timely. English Idyll features paintings and prints by Ward, an acknowledged master of British landscape art. The exhibition will reveal a vanished England of bustling wharfs and ramshackle buildings. Ward’s evocative etchings, lithographs, linocuts and wood engravings capture a disappearing world of tranquil countryside and bustling waterways.
Ward was also an accomplished painter in oils and watercolour, capturing the chalk cliffs, ruins and architectural oddities of an England that would have been familiar to Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) or Charles Dickens (1812-1870). His monochrome prints reveal a mastery of atmosphere, light and shade.
Views of Poole Harbour and the Isle of Purbeck reflect his love of the Dorset landscape, but he travelled widely in search of pastoral subjects and took delight in the decaying buildings of Britain’s historic towns. His passion for working boats and industrial architecture took him to the Thames, Medway and Humber. He is perhaps little known outside Dorset, but this exhibition confirms his position as one of England’s most significant 20th century painter-printmakers.
Ward began his art training by winning a scholarship to the Drummond Road Art school in Bournemouth, a town he spent most of his life in. He lived at 22 Grants Avenue, Springbourne area), and taught at the Municipal College of Art; he was also a leading member of the Bournemouth Arts Club. Probably best known as a very fine etcher, he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers (RE) in 1936 and exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy.
Ward was a very tall austere character who often wore cloaks and flamboyant hats. He was also a good friend of artist Eustace Nash (1886-1969). Both were often seen together in the Bournemouth and Poole area during the 1950’s and 60’s, between them they produced many drawings, paintings and etchings of the region.
English Idyll will feature many rarely seen works on loan from private collections as well as paintings and prints from the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in Bournemouth. It will be a treat for devotees of fine prints and lovers of the English landscape. Works by Ward are held in the Russell Cotes Art Gallery in Bournemouth and public galleries in Hastings, Eastbourne, Southampton, Oldham, Cheltenham, The Victoria and Albert and the British Museum. A fully illustrated catalogue is available, sponsored by private collector of Ward’s work, Stuart Southall.
- Further information about Leslie Moffat Ward can be found on http://www.lesliemoffatward.com;
- English Idyll runs from 25th April-6th June at St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire (http://www.stbarbe-museum.org.uk). Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-4pm. Admission charges apply.