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Girl in a Straw Hat – Claire Vicole (1820-75)

I'd just re-read Middlemarch (which, incidentally has a watercolour vignette by Birket Foster as its frontispiece) when I first set eyes on this charming little watercolour of a young girl, who could have walked straight from its pages. The young girl's poise and the subtle refinement of her dress suggest that this is a portrait of a person known to the artist and at least a social equal, rather than one of those winsome, generic portraits of flower sellers and urchins various that were so popular in the mid-19 th century.

The artist, Claire Vicole, is known to me only by an inscription on the reverse, which, helpfully, gives her dates: 1820-75 and the fact that she died in Paris. It is an accomplished little picture, with subtle colouration and a delightful sketchy background that is very confidently done. It is inscribed with an elaborate C.V monogram that positively brims with self-belief.

Fishing Boats, Reykjavik, Iceland, 1943 -
Thomas Hennell, (1903-1946)

Thomas Hennell was flown out to Iceland in May 1943 as an official war artist, to replace Eric Ravilious, who had been reported missing in a flying accident there nine months earlier. The War Artists Advisory Committee asked Hennell to “record aspects of the War in Iceland” – then an important strategic possession for the Allies in the vital battle for the control of shipping and armaments in the North Atlantic.

Hennell produced some of his best work in Iceland, responding with typical sensitivity to the landscape and the work of the Icelandic fisherman, as well as to the practical demands of his work in recording military activity.

Most of Hennell's work from that period resides in public collections, notably the Imperial War Museum, the British Council and the Government Art Collection but the watercolour we have for sale is a rare example of a private commission undertaken by the artist during his stay in Iceland. An official from the British Legation in Reykjavik (from where Hennell sent and received letters from home) saw Hennell at work and asked if he could produce a watercolour of the view of Mount Esja from the house, known as ‘Holdi'. This Hennell did, including the activities of local fisherman preparing their small trawler, but carefully excluding any detail of military activity.

The brilliant quality of the Icelandic light lends an ethereal quality to the scene, as do the slightly anthropomorphic shapes of the distant Icelandic mountains, which Hennell described as “like an animal's skin” in the mid-day light.

Provenance: British Legation and by descent.


A Street in Chelsea, C.1920 -
Paul Lucien Maze (1887-1979)

Paul Lucien Maze, born in Le Havre in 1887, first came to the attention of the British art scene after the First World war, exhibiting with other French artists such as Matisse, Bonnard, Utrillo and Vuillard, with whom he was on friendly, collaborative terms.

Maze was naturalized as a British subject in 1920, shortly after his marriage to the widow of a wartime friend, Captain Thomas Nelson. He moved to 14 Chelsea Embankment in the same year and fell to painting the London scene with great enthusiasm, relishing, like so many French impressionists and post-impressionists, the fogs and dingy back streets as much as the pageantry and grandeur of the City's setting.

Our oil dates probably dates from the early 1920s, when Maze could often be seen sketching in the streets around South Chelsea . Despite knowing the area quite well, we haven't yet been able to track down the exact location.

Maze was a friend and painting partner of Winston Churchill, whom he met while on active service in the First World War with the Royal Scots Greys, where he worked as an interpreter. In later life, Maze became better known for pretty pastel treatments of the English social scene, particularly military and sporting occasions.


Leicester Galleries,1922

Christies, 1950


Lawn Cottage - The Artist's Home Watercolour -
John Strickland Goodall (1908-1996)

John Strickland Goodall was a well-known illustrator and watercolourist, whose career spanned virtually the whole of the last century. He was educated at Harrow and the Royal Academy Schools before starting his working life as an illustrator for the Radio Times.

Goodall achieved fame for his witty line drawings for Dora Saint's quintessentially English ‘Miss Read' series of children's books. His talent for evocative ‘period' detail of English life could also be seen in his watercolours - exemplified by a popular series of ‘wordless' picture books, such as ‘An Edwardian Holiday', which drew on memories of his own turn-of-the-century childhood.

Lawn Cottage in Wiltshire was the artist's home for much of his life and became famous in its own right as the subject of a best-selling jigsaw puzzle, based on another Goodall watercolour. Our version is a touching and accomplished evocation of the artist's home life: Goodall's studio can be seen to the left of the cottage and the artist himself - walking his dog - to the right

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