Monday, 2 November 2015

Parlour Paintings

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.


Sue Imgrund said...

Can't really help you on the artist, I'm afraid, but I do think these are rather jolly. I like the sense of perspective in the first one, and in the second one you can really feel the sunlight on the meadow.

Peter Ashley said...

Glad you like them Sue. I can imagine them on packaging for eggs and butter. Might try that.

Peter Ashley said...

A friend tells me it's Smyth not Smith. Which teaches me to look properly at signatures. Lots of other good stuff online under 'Norman Smyth'.

Mike @ A Bit About Britain said...

Alas, being met by blank stares is not a new experience...I can see what you liked about the paintings - there's something simple and comforting about them about them, like something from an old children's storybook.

Dickie Straker said...

Sorry Peter, can't offer any help but just echo your enthusiasm of them - very comforting pictures indeed. By coincidence we were holidaying near Craswall this Summer - I wanted to go to this very pub (heard good things about giant sarnies and old fashioned feel) but it was shut! Looked like it had been closed for some time. Good luck in your quest! TTFN Dickie

Peter Ashley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Ashley said...

Mike: You've got it exactly. Pared down shapes and economic colours that you'd find in a nursery, or on ceramic tiles of a certain vintage.

Dickie: Sorry you found the pub shut. The pub I saw in 2010 was the old original- peeling wallpaper etc. Two years ago there was still peeling wallpaper, but now having to act up to being designer distressed. Sadly it's shut due to illness, but they hope to re-open for Easter 2016. Still more of a gastro pub though I feel.

Martin Gosling said...

Have just found 'The Cigarette Papers.' A terrific book which wafted me back to the days of my youth. Would you consider assembling a similar publication dealing with pipe smoking and the huge and colourful range of tobaccos once available? Against the odds, there remains a not so small army of (mostly secret) pipe smokers in England, who indulge their harmless habit in garden sheds and in deep woodland.
Thank you again.
Martin Gosling

amy said...

Hi Peter,
How very funny. I happen to be looking at these two very paintings right now. They belong to my parents who indeed own The Bull's Head.
The pub hadn't changed hands between the first and second time you visited - always Mum behind the bar, so I'm not sure who gave you a 'blank stare'. Mum certainly doesn't do blank stares and would have known about the paintings.
Yes, they picked the paintings up a few years ago when they were on holiday in Ireland, and they love them.
By the way, they took the pub over when it had been shut for a number of years. They took it over when it was boarded up and had been stripped of everything. Wires hanging from the walls!! They didn't change anything at all - they even tracked down the original pub furniture and bought it back. Sorry you felt that they were going for 'designer distressed' - I can assure you that everything is original!!!
Dickie - the sandwiches to which you refer were the 'huffers' that 3 owners ago used to sell nearly 20 years ago!!! You might want to act a little more quickly next time ;-)
Best wishes,