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Friday, 1st Feb 2019
The forgotten county
By Tim Porter
Stones in his pockets
Wednesday 24th April 2019
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Sir Alfred East, RA, PRBE RE (1844-1913) painted in the Cotswolds working from his studio in Upper Swell near Stow on the Wold. Sir Alfred was inspired by the area around Upper Swell and particularly the millpond. He was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire and worked for the family shoe making business there. He later studied at the Glasgow School of Art before becoming a professional landscape artist in his late thirties.
Following the disclosure of both the artist and the location of the ‘fake’ Monet picture, many more paintings by this prolific artist were found to have been painted in the Cotswolds, particularly around Upper Swell where Sir Alfred rented a small studio. He referred to the area as Over Swell, hoping to avoid the village becoming a focus for visitors seeking out the views he portrayed. He clearly loved the area around the mill pool to the North of the old mill which is the subject of many of his landscapes, which are now located in galleries in Budapest, Hungary and Christchurch, New Zealand, as well as in England including the gallery he founded in his home town of Kettering.
An informative booklet has been produced about his life and work in Upper Swell, which earned him the soubriquet ‘The Monet of the Cotswolds’ bestowed on him by an article in “Country Life” on the 100th anniversary of his death. Many of his landscapes are reproduced in full colour, along with photographs of the same scenes in the village today, showing very little change from the views that he admired. Though he had worked in many countries around the world, the view of the millpond was used extensively in his book “the Art of Landscape Painting” to illustrate the effects of light at different times of the day, the changing seasons and all types of weather. The book would have inspired many budding painters of the day, including Sir Winston Churchill who possessed a copy.
The Monet Mystery
Did you know that the good name of our local artist, Sir Alfred East - quite innocently - became associated with one of the great art fake scandals of our time? Following research into a painting in the Museum of Fine Arts in Detroit entitled ‘three people resting under a tree’ and signed by Monet it was discovered to be one of Sir Alfred's paintings! Research in 2011 by Dr Salvador Salort Pons demonstrated that the painting, acquired by the gallery in 2005, was in fact entitled ‘Tewksbury Road’ and painted by Sir Alfred East in Upper Swell.
Click on the arrow in mid-screen below to learn how the mystery was solved.
Sadly, WW1 intervened following his death in 1913 and his style of painting became unfashionable so his name became largely forgotten. However, his descendant, Paul Johnson, has kindly funded the production of this informative booklet which is available at price of £2 from the Civic Society or from Evergreen Livres at No 2, Talbot Court, just off the Square in Stow on the Wold.
Although there are few public rights of way to enable the casual visitor to view the beautiful scenery around Upper Swell, the Civic Society can offer guided tours for groups or individuals by arrangement using routes available to local residents.