PROPERTY OF THE HANFORD SCHOOL CHARITABLE TRUST, SOLD BY ORDER OF THE TRUSTEES
Rev. and Mrs C.B. Canning, and thence by descent to Sarah Canning, by whom gifted to The Hanford School Charitable Trust
London, South London Art Gallery, William Coldstream, April 1962, and toured by the Arts Council to Leeds, Bristol, Swansea, Southampton and Birmingham, no.39;
London, Tate Gallery, The Paintings of William Coldstream 1908-1987, 17th October 1990 - 6th January 1991, and toured by the South Bank Centre to Newport, Norwich and Manchester, no.31, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, p.87, and again in colour p.59.
Bruce Laughton, The Euston Road School, Scolar Press, Aldershot 1986, p.251-2, illustrated figs. 148, 149;
Peter Rumley, The Paintings of William Coldstream, Tate Gallery exhibition catalogue, 1990, cat.31, illustrated in colour, p.59;
Bruce Laughton, William Coldstream, Yale University Press, 2004, pp.116-7, 139 (WMC 117), illustrated in colour, fig.61 and 62.
Painted in June 1945, the current work is listed in Bruce Laughton's working catalogue raisonné as WMC 117.
Coldstream arrived in Florence at the end of May 1945 while still working as an official war artist. He had chosen his subject matter within a couple of days of arriving in the war-torn city and worked on 'the Arno picture' for 15 consecutive days before being summoned to Rome by the War Office to begin his return journey to England.
The Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence that had not been blown up when the city was captured back from the Germans in August 1944. The present work was painted entirely 'on the spot' from the empty first floor room of a hotel which had suffered partial destruction as a result of the German demolitions. The arcaded structure on the right is part of the Medici covered passage which connected the Pitti Place on the south bank to the Uffizi Palace on the north. Though Coldstream did not quite have time to finish his painting in the time allowed, Bruce Laughton has pointed out that the small measuring marks dotted across the canvas, and the key horizontal and verticals, show that he knew exactly where everything was in the picture and that to finish it would be just a matter of paring down from larger shapes to smaller ones within them. In a letter to Dr. John Rake dated 8 June 1945, Coldstream described the painting upon which he was 'at least well embarked' (Tate Archives, 787.77) In a later letter dated 29th August 1945, the artist wrote again to Rake of his fondness for the work, and expressed 'rather a pang at not having finished it' (787.82).
The last picture painted abroad as a War artist, the present work was neverthess not sent to the War Office as part of Coldstream's contract. Instead it entered the possession of his friends the Rev. and Mrs C.B. Canning and by the spring of 1949 it hung in their bedroom at Hanford, Dorset (letter from Enid Canning to Coldstream). The painting is now being sold to benefit Hanford School, founded by the Cannings in 1947 and run by their daughter Sarah until 2004 when it was passed over to the Charitable Trust.
We are very grateful to Bruce Laughton for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.
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