Inquisitive Eyes: Slade Painters in Edwardian Wessex offered a group show featuring Augustus John, John Everett (a new name to me), Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry and William Orpen painting Thomas Hardy’s Wessex.

John Everett was a new name to me, although having looked him up I recognised his painting of Orphelia instantly. His landscapes have sweeps and curves of ground and sky and flittering impressions of light. I really liked them. Squint and they become abstract paintings dealing solely with colour and form.


Augustus John’s dominant painting style offers glamour and almost pastiches of coloured seas daubed in azure blue against chalky white cliffs.


But still my favourites were Vanessa Bell and Roger Fry’s paintings.  The images at the top of the page are my terrible photos (surreptitious – why is it you’re never allowed to take photographs in galleries grumble grumble) but I was able to find better versions in press coverage of the show.

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Here Bell pairs a largely yellow sand background with purples of the sea and purple flowers in the greenery further up the beach. Figures are dressed in emerald greens and red red skirts. Blue clothing is also picked up, contrasting with the orange tones of the figures’ hair and flesh.


Roger Fry’s seascape scene is dominated by the black outlines around his landscape. This makes the white of the cliffs shine with reflected light against the grey tinted reds, purples, oranges and greens which comprise a large part of the rest of the painting. Fry, like Bell, is using successive contrast which suited his arbitrary colour scheme.