Someone I used to know and work under in Gloucestershire would, I think, have said dismissively of a painting like this, “Chocolate Box Art”, and he would say it in such an authoritative way that you would have found yourself agreeing with him and changing your own opinion even as internal voice was saying, “Ooh, that’s rather nice”. We lived in Gloucestershire at various times and I find this scene hard to place. The stone looks to have come from a Cotswold quarry. The verdancy puts it on lower ground, for the top reaches of the Cotswolds can be quite bleak. It could be in the Vale between the Cotswold escarpment and the Severn anywhere between Cheltenham and Bristol. It might be further north into the Vale of Evesham, and then again it could be further east where the Cotswold dip slope shades down into Oxfordshire and warmer lands. But whereabouts notwithstanding it is a pleasant scene and comforting to the wounded spirit. If it were on the lid of a chocolate box I should enjoy the chocolates all the more.
Stephen Darbishire paints a great deal, though not exclusively, in and around the English Lake District in Cumbria. I think we have seen his work at the annual Lake Artists exhibition in Grasmere. He is another artist who has found what he likes and what he can do well so he mines that seam steadily, so you can either say is work is “samey” or just enjoy it and look to see what the next one is about. I fall into the latter group. It must also be said that if you have lived, or visited, or worked in Cumbria his paintings capture it very well and his interiors of the older houses and farms especially so.
Two copies of the same picture from different web sites and giving different colour renderings. I think the portrayal of the girl or young woman is excellent, especially her face. Obviously being a woodcutter is not a remunerative exercise and her clothing shows it. A useful reminder that poverty and the absence of many things we would take for granted is right there in all societies, all the time, and those of us who do not have to live like this are both lucky and privileged. Hard physical work and not much to show for it at the end of the day. And, apropos of nothing very much, I have a billhook of exactly that shape and size hanging in my garage at the moment. I think it came from one of my Grandparents places and must be 100 years old at least. But still as good as ever.
Charles Sprague Pearce (1851 – 1914), was an American artist who lived for a great part of his life in France – some of it near Auvers-sur-Oise, northwest of Paris. It is now on the edge of a National Park so my guess is that this painting is based on life in that area. You can read all about him on Wikipedia HERE.