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William John Leech A CORNFIELD, SUFFOLK
Lot 5
Price Realised: €12,500
Estimate: €5,000 - €7,000
William John Leech RHA, 1881-1968 A CORNFIELD, SUFFOLK Oil on board, 10 1/4" x 14" (26 x 35.5cm), signed; inscribed verso. Provenance: Purchased from The Dawson Gallery, Dublin (inscribed label verso) In Leech's handwriting, on the bac... Read more
William John Leech RHA, 1881-1968 A CORNFIELD, SUFFOLK Oil on board, 10 1/4" x 14" (26 x 35.5cm), signed; inscribed verso. Provenance: Purchased from The Dawson Gallery, Dublin (inscribed label verso) In Leech's handwriting, on the back, is written 'A Cornfield, Suffolk' by William J. Leech R.H.A. In 'A Cornfield, Suffolk' sunlight baths the middle distance, focusing on the rows of stooks of corn, which form intersecting diagonals which carry the viewer's eye to the farm building and the houses on the hill beyond.  The pinkish toned under painting allows the work to glow with warmth, conveying a hot summer's day from the heat of the sky down to the sunlit farm fencing in the immediate foreground. The composition is classically Leech, with the green foliage of the hedge in the middle distance, which veer from right to left and which leads the eye to the buildings on the horizon. The open gate in the foreground allows the viewer enter this summer scene of a lush South of England countryside. The immediacy and vibrancy of the brushwork, in conveying the scene, is a hallmark of Leech painting en plein air, so different from his friend and supporter Dermod O'Brien, former President R.H.A, as exemplified in O'Brien's more academic work 'The Estuary of the Shannon' which also incorporates rows of corn in stooks, painted in 1935. (Coll. Ulster Museum). Leech's 'A Cornfield, Suffolk' is probably painted a few years later, after the outbreak of the Second World War when Leech and his partner, May Botterell escaped from the London bombings, which damaged Leech's Steele's Studio, to relatives in the countryside. Both Leech's relatives and May Botterell's relatives generously gave the couple safe lodgings during the war years, with Leech repaying this kindness with his paintings. Leech submitted a work to the Royal Academy, in 1940, from The Dilly, Upper Breeding, Sussex, which was the address of May Botterell's eldest son Jim and his wife Eileen. Jim was the eldest of May's three children to her husband Percy Botterell, a very successful London lawyer who commissioned Leech to paint a portrait of his wife in 1919. This meeting resulted in May Botterell becoming Leech's partner until they eventually married in 1953, after Percy's death, in 1952. Upper Breeding, Sussex, is just North of Shoreham-by-Sea and in the midst of the South Downs and it provided Leech, with suitable painting locations which replaced the landscapes of France, which he never again visited. Dr Denise Ferran, November 2020
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