Lot 55: Various Properties
20th Century British Art
November 17, 2010
London, United Kingdom
Church at Newnham-on-Severn
signed 'E.Wadsworth' (lower right)
tempera on canvas
47 x 53 cm. (18 1/2 x 21 in.)
With The Independent Gallery, London
Jonathan Black, Edward Wadsworth, The Complete Paintings and Drawings, Philip Wilson Publishers, London, 2005, cat.no.166, p.172 (ill.b&w)
The present work was executed in 1921-22, a crucial point in the young Wadsworth's career. Firstly his father died, leaving him almost a quarter of a million pounds and secondly, it was the time when he began to paint seriously in tempera.
The year before, he had holidayed with his family in Newlyn, Cornwall. He was so taken by the coast that he endeavoured to walk back to London. Along the way, he became enthralled by the scenery of Plymouth and Portland, painting many different views (see Plymouth Cattewater, lot 64, 12 March 2008, sold in these rooms for over £40,000). Following his inheritance he was able to buy a car, thereby facilitating other such explorations.
Newnham-on-Severn is on the banks of the Severn next to the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. Wadsworth was not a religious man and the depiction of an ecclesiastical building is unusual. It may have drawn his interest because of the structures proximity to flowing water. It was this combination of nature versus the manmade that had previously fascinated him along the southern coastline.
Tempera painting is an unforgiving medium as it dries so quickly, there is no margin for error. It involves using egg yolks as opposed to oil, to bind the powdered pigments with water. His decision to use this slow, painstaking process may in no small part be due to his lack of financial concerns. With no urgency to produce pictures, he could now afford to take his time and deliver quality work, as in this lot.