Five years ago I found myself in The Bull's Head in Craswall, on the Welsh Borders in Herefordshire. I was very taken by these two pictures on the wall of one of the rooms, snapping them in passing. Two years ago I found myself there again, but the pub had changed hands and the pictures had gone. On asking about them I was met by blank stares, but that happens increasingly these days.
Today they suddenly came to my attention again as I searched for something else. And I find I like them even more. Both were in beautiful black frames that looked late Victorian, but the paintings I imagine are later. Closer inspection revealed them to have been very neatly signed in red paint by an NWJ Smith. But I can find out nothing about the artist, not even if it's a woman or man. Can anybody out there help?
John Turner looked more carefully at the signature than I did, and saw that it is indeed 'Smyth' not 'Smith'. So that helped enormously, and he found Norman Smyth on the intraweb, an Irish painter who, it seems, is still at it. Thankyou John for your diligence.
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)
"Open this book with reverence. It is a hymn to England". Clive Aslet
"Enchanting...delightful". The Bookseller "Cheekily named" We Love This Book
The Cigarette Papers
"Unexpectedly pleasing and engrossing...beautifully illustrated". The Bookseller
"Until the happy advent of Peter Ashley's Cross Country it has, ironically, been foreigners who have been best at celebrating Englishness". Christina Hardyment / The Independent
More from Unmitigated England
"Give this book to someone you know- if not everyone you know." Simon Heffer, Country Life. "When it comes to spotting the small but telling details of Englishness, Peter Ashley has no equal." Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph