Edward Wadsworth, A.R.A.
- Edward Wadsworth, A.R.A.
- pen pits
- signed and dated 1936; also signed, inscribed with title and The country seat of Arthur Bliss Esq on a label attached to the reverse
- tempera and pencil on board
- 62 by 87.5cm.; 24½ by 34½in.
Alan Powers, Harmonious Mansions: Two Composers' Houses of the 1930s, Country Life, London, 29 August 1985, pp.559-563, illustrated;
Barbara Wadsworth, Edward Wadsworth: A Painter's Life, Michael Russell, Salisbury 1989, pp.235-237, illustrated, W/A 173;
Jonathan Black, Edward Wadsworth: Form, Feeling and Calculation, Philip Wilson Publishers, London 2005, cat. no.338, illustrated;
Margaret Campbell, 'What Tuberculosis did for Modernism: The Influence of a Curative Environment on Modernist Design and Architecture', Medical History, 1 October 2005, pp.463-488.
Painted in 1936, Pen Pits shows the modernist house that Peter Harland had designed for Sir Arthur and Lady Bliss in Somerset and which had been completed shortly before. One of the pioneering examples of this type of domestic architecture in Britain, the painting arose from a conversation during one of Wadsworth's visits to the Blisses and by 7th August he was able to write to Lady Bliss, 'Dear Trudy, The picture of Pen Pits is finished: I have been working 7-8 hours a day on it and though I says it as shouldn't I think it looks well.'
The amalgamation of the country house portrait tradition with both modernist architecture and Wadworth's own very distinctive style offers us an image which at the time must have appeared very striking, and the combination of the purity of the architecture with the informal human touches added by Wadsworth such as the watering can on the terrace offer a wonderful snapshot of this world. Pen Pits still stands, and whilst some changes have been made, and the gardens have come to maturity in the intervening years, it retains exactly the balance of rigorous modernity and sympathy with its setting that Wadsworth found so appealing.