Dorothea Sharp, R.B.A., R.O.I., V.P.S.W.A.
- Dorothea Sharp, R.B.A., R.O.I., V.P.S.W.A.
- Cornfield in Summertime
- signed l.r.: DOROTHEA SHARP
- oil on canvas
- 76 by 91.5cm., 30 by 36in.
Perhaps no other British artist has painted the joy of childhood as charmingly as Dorothea Sharp, who captured the spark of youth with a sensitivity that is exceptional. With her energetic paintings of children playing in rock pools, picking flowers in gardens riotous in colour or embracing little animals in their chubby arms, she chose subjects that were domestic and every-day – evoking nostalgic memories in the adults who purchased her pictures throughout her long career. ‘Dorothea’s most typical paintings capture the atmosphere of warm sunshine on a sparkling sea, a breezy day, the sound of laughter, the comfort of animals, the cry of seagulls, the crashing and splashing of turquoise waves on golden sands.’ (op.cit)
In the present picture Sharp has delighted in capturing the undulating rhythms of the variously-hued grass of the meadow as a summer breeze passes through. On a bank overlooking the verdant landscape, a young girl sits beneath a parasol with a baby at her side. The painting recalls the work of the most influential artist upon Sharp’s work, Claude Monet. Sharp discovered the work of the Impressionists in her late twenties when she studied in Paris and was able to see their pictures first-hand. She was greatly inspired by Monet in particular and her working methods abruptly changed as she sought to emulate the bold brushstrokes and strong colour of French art and introduced brilliant colour to her shadows. She began to paint with yellow ochre and French ultramarine, vermillion and rose madder with flake white applied confidently with thick impasto. She wrote; ‘I think the young painters of this decade little realize what we owe to those great masters of the French Impressionist School.’ (Dorothea Sharp, The Student’s Book of Oil Painting, 1937, p.31) Although her paintings are spontaneous and freely executed they were not effortlessly painted, but the result of careful and deliberate endeavour. Her use of colour was particularly expert, derived in part by her study of Impressionist painters but also by instinct; she described colour as 'that elusive something we cannot quite define... To have good colour sense is to be in touch with nature... Colour is emotional - it is felt, in its finer sense rather than seen. Colour cannot be taught - beyond a point - it is inborn.' (The Artist Magazine, April 1931, p48) Her understanding of children and her sensitive and charming way of painting them could perhaps also be described as instinctive and although she had no children of her own, she clearly loved infants and young people. As a female artist her child models felt relaxed in her presence to act like children and play as she painted them rather than pose as though playing as they might for a male painter. She was often accompanied by her little Pekinese dogs, armed with boxes of Roses chocolates to keep the children's tears at bay when they became bored and everyone regarded her like a kindly aunt whose paintings made them smile. Thus her pictures have no artifice or pretention and depict the world of children as it was - although she always chose the sunniest, happiest days, like the memories of long summer holidays that never seem to end. Her pictures are supremely optimistic and uplifting and demonstrate that not only was she a talented painter, she was also a happy one.
We are grateful to Helen Entwisle for her assistance with the writing of this catalogue note.