Scene in Switzerland
Research by Jacqueline Arundel
A landscape painted from life, 'en plein air’, which means ‘in the open air'.
Scene in Switzerland was painted by Walter Woodhead (1867–1946) in watercolour on paper. The late summer afternoon sun tinges the scene with warm ochres and yellow greens; a clouded blue sky and purple grey mountains lie in the distance. The differing colour temperatures and tonal qualities of each of the three planes define their distance and clarify their location in space, adding depth to the picture. The path of vision leads you into the painting to a farmer and his donkey working near their cart, leading on over a gate next to a barn to the vanishing point at the bottom of the tree. Your eye is then led right along a path or road, indicated by the fenced bridge, and up the hill along the line of trees into the distance. A river flowing from the distant mountains also aids in leading your eye into the picture; three sheep graze on the riverbank. According to William Gilpin (1724-1804), sheep and cattle are a necessity in any landscape picture and his aesthetic ideal of ‘picturesque’. (1)
Woodhead has used a low viewpoint to emphasise the ‘sublime’, the vastness of the mountains, and probably ‘added’ the partially dead tree, possibly struck by lightning on the riverbank, to add nature with the composition thus creating a more balanced ‘picturesque’ picture; both beautiful and sublime this painting evokes a sense of tranquillity. With a limited use of washes Woodhead has painted light to dark without much blending of colours, using brush strokes or shapes of colour instead, overlaid or juxtaposed to define objects. Woodhead's painterly style is reminiscent of the Impressionists and Claude Monet’s (1840-1926) famous statement to an American woman: “When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you; a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape, until it gives you your own naïve impression of the scene before you”. (2)
(1) Gilpin, W, (1724-1804), Sartin, S, (1976), Thomas Sidney Cooper, CVO, RA, 1803-1902, Leigh-on-Sea, F Lewis Publishers Ltd.
(2) Monet, C, (1840-1926), Eds: Katz, K & Dars, (2002), The Impressionists, Leicester, Abbeydale Press.
Works by Walter Woodhead in Lytham Art Collection
1. Farm Cottage
2. Landscape and River Scene
3. Greba Castle 'Isle of Man'
4. Bolton Abbey
5. St Annes-on-the-Sea 1913
6. Cottage on the Sandhills
7. Rocky Coastal Scene (pastel)
8. In the Orchard
9. Fylde Bridge
11. A Yorkshire Dale (oil)
12. Fylde Landscape (oil)
13. St Annes Parish Church
14. Lytham Sandhills
15. Scene in Switzerland
16 Still Life with Sweet Pea and Lilac