The latest arts column from Suffolk-based artist, educator and presenter Grace Adam focuses on three paintings on the subject of Summer
The Badminton Game – David Inshaw, 1972-73
What a strange and wonderful picture. I’ve been enchanted by this painting for years. Painted in 1973, it seems to me it could only have been created in that decade. In the garden of a tall red brick Georgian house two women play a game of Badminton. They leap and reach for the shuttlecock in their long billowing skirts. Vast neatly clipped topiary shrubs tower over them. It’s not just two friends whiling away a balmy summer afternoon though. Inshaw, the artist, was he says in love with both women at the time. Knowing this we look at the painting differently, searching for clues. The sky has patches of mackerel sky which forecast rain – a sense of foreboding. The painter wanted to create a work that reflected the architecture and landscape of Devizes and that ‘held a moment in time’.
Victoria Embankment Gardens – Charles Ginner, 1912
A solitary woman in a large yellow hat sits in a formal park in the middle of London amidst the hubbub of mases of busy people. In the background looms Big Ben and the golden dome of Scotland Yard against a patterned sky. Painted in early summer, Ginner’s verdant foliage hides much of the architecture. He had recently revisited Van Gogh’s paintings, and as a younger man he had made art nouveau illustrations for magazines. Ginner belonged to the short-lived Camden Town Group. Their aim was to communicate the realities of modern urban life. More like an embroidery than a painting, this more decorative work was a departure for him.
Office in a Small City – Edward Hopper, 1953
Lots of us are familiar with Edward Hopper’s paintings. If you know his work, you probably think of Nighthawks, an evocation of late-night city melancholy. He also made less flashy works, often with solitary figures or empty interiors. He painted quiet, often disquieting moments. Hopper started work on the Office in a Small City whilst summering at Cape Cod. A solitary man sits daydreaming in an office high above the city streets. A cloudless blue sky, strong sunlight and his neatly rolled up sleeves attest to a hot summer day in the city. The room frames this office worker separating him from the outside world. His body is contained, but maybe not his thoughts. Generic mass-produced office furniture and the man’s unseen colleagues add to a sense of alienation. The oddly decorative false front of his building contrasts with the utilitarian work environment. He’d rather be anywhere else. Hopper uses a palette of dirty whites, burnt orange, umber and ochre to render his modernist corner office, a scene repeated thousands of times across mid-century America. He painted quiet, or maybe disquieting moments, and Alfred Hitchcock was a huge fan.
Want to know more? Grace Adam is co-presenter on The Art Channel – YouTube. The latest film ‘After Impressionism’ at the National Gallery – YouTube is up now. Subscribe for free. Visit Grace Adam Artist and follow @artistgraceadam on Instagram. and @GraceAdam4 on Twitter. Grace currently has an installation in CYCLE at St Marys Church, Wighton; curated by Rachel Allen, @mandellsgallery; with a workshop running on 22nd July.