Thursday, 28 June 2012
Harold Collinson 'on either side the river lie long fields of barley and of rye'
The Vale of Trent around Nottingham is remarkable for a series of cliffs and fossil cliffs that stretch along the river and sometimes stand some way back from it. As soon as I saw this colour woodcut by Harold Collinson (1886 - 1955) I knew where I was; it was one of those moments of immediate recognition and affection for a landscape I have known all my life. I've walked miles along this river, looking across the pastures, at long lines of hills beyond them.
For many years, Collinson was etching master at Nottingham of School of Art and is mainly known (if at all) for views of old Nottingham. But they have as much a sense of place as this colour print called Haying. But this I like a lot more. And I like it for all the wrong reasons. Apart from the attraction of the locality, I love the outlandish way he has attempted to describe those sudden showers the Trent valley is prone to. It goes without saying that his green sky is also towards the top of the list.
It would be easy to miss the fact that the hills are closer than they might appear because of the awkward way that Collinson has shown the shadow on the lower slopes. For me, this what makes the picture so immediately telling. Here is an artist who knows a countryside so well, he knows what is unique and what he needs to describe. It goes beyond technique. It talks.
It's quite odd to place the viewer in so much shadow as well but then that it what makes it so throughly art deco. I would be surprised to find out that he didn't know the work of those other localists, Sylvan Boxsius and Eric Slater. And the quote above is from the Lincolnshire poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson: ''I am half-sick of shadows!'' cried the lady of Shallot'.