Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Lost Picture

In the 1950s, way before I compiled a pictorial and written record of my paintings, I painted a landscape of the late 18th century Iron Bridge in Coalbrookdale.
I also made a drawing of this icon of cast ironwork, which was done with the then recently invented indelible, felt-tip, black-dye pen. This was a wonderful invention for a budding artist, making drawing far more effective. And it was almost as easy to use as a pencil – though with mistakes uncorrectable.
These pens were better than those available today inasmuch as you could control the amount of ink delivered by pressing down on the felt tip to release ink into it. So one could use its wedge-shaped tip to draw with a light or heavy line, thick or thin. These pens may well still exist, though I would not consider using one today.
It so happens that I am at present working on a series of A4 pastels entitled “Landscape Recalled”. These are recollections of my past landscape paintings. They are interpretations – to some eyes barely resembling the originals.
One recently finished example of Landscape Recalled is of that of the Iron Bridge, Coalbrookdale. I have no record of the original.
A 2’x 2’ painting, done on that very same journey north to Coalbrookdale, I still have. It is of a barge on the Shropshire Union Canal in 1956, when the bargee allowed me to sit at the prow and record us passing beneath an asymmetrical bridge near Eyton. This was exhibited at the Galerie de Seine in 1957.
So where might that original Iron Bridge oil painting be?
Well, when I sold the studio that I had built on a Thames wharf in Limehouse, London, certain paintings were stored in the loft there and forgotten in the sale and my move to America in 1970.
This studio house in Three Colt Street changed hands twice before the then owner contacted me in London after I left my address with the estate agent who was about to sell it once more.
I went to meet the owner, who showed me the forgotten paintings that he had taken down from the loft. They were dusty and scratched.
Technically they belonged to the owner of the property, who chose four of them for himself, kindly giving me back the rest.
One of those returned to me was the barge painting.
So did this kind house-owner select and keep the Coalbrookdale Iron Bridge painting? I can’t recall.
Lost, given, stolen or strayed, at least I now have my pastel recollection of it.