John Minton (British, 1917-1957) The Hop Pickers 26 x 33.5 cm. (10 1/4 x 13 1/4 in.)
Lot 59
John Minton (British, 1917-1957) The Hop Pickers 26 x 33.5 cm. (10 1/4 x 13 1/4 in.)
Sold for £28,800 (US$ 48,808) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
John Minton (British, 1917-1957)
The Hop Pickers
signed and dated 'John Minton 1945' (lower left), further signed, inscribed with title and dated 'Sept 45' (on a label attached to the backboard)
watercolour, pen, gouache and chalk
26 x 33.5 cm. (10 1/4 x 13 1/4 in.)

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    With Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London

    John Minton's familiarity with Kent and scenes like this owed much to an older married woman whom he had first met at St John's Wood Art School, where both were students in the mid-1930s. This was Edie Lamont, wife of the coal-merchant broker Marshall Lamont. In January 1945 the Lamonts moved from Hampstead to 'Marshalls' at Chart Sutton, a house that sat within a three-acre garden and is within two minutes walk of a view over the Weald. We know from Edie Lamont's diaries that John Minton made two to four visits to 'Marshalls' every year, up until 1954, and that, whilst there, he made drawing expeditions to Little Chart Forstall, Frittenden and Tenterden.

    1945 proved to be a good year for Minton. He was offered two shows: one in the top-floor gallery of the recently opened Roland, Browse and Delbanco, where he showed drawings and watercolours of Kent and Cornwall; the other at the Lefevre Gallery. (Henry Roland used to tell how during the course of the first show he took Minton to lunch at a tiny restaurant in Brewer Street, his regular haunt and popular with office clerks. The Lefevre, on the other hand, impressed Minton with an expensive luncheon and thereafter he remained firmly within this gallery's stable.) One drawing shown in the first of these two shows, The Orchard, was reproduced the following year in Michael Ayrton's 'British Drawings'. In places it makes use of wax crayon which, resistant to ink or watercolour wash, sets up a similar mottled effect to that found here, in the treatment of the nets hanging between the poles supporting the hops. In both scenes Minton skilfully offsets detailed definition against broader effects in order to convey the luxuriance of growth.

    Hop-picking attracts a casual workforce and this, too, would have been for Minton part of the attraction of this subject, giving him further opportunity to work with the male figure. During the war years he had on several occasions turned to landscape, drawing on his recollection of specific places or on his imagination. Nature, in these wartime scenes, offers an embrace for solitary figures or couples, but its encompassing fertility contains tension and disquiet. The Hop Pickers, by comparison, has a happier, easier mood, conveyed in part by the rocking movement set up by the two foreground figures and their sacks and its echo in the nets behind. There is a strong reminiscence of neo-romanticism in this work, but it is blended with a much greater interest in the visible world and the activities going on within it. The dark accents, suggestive of shadow, around the figures offset the lighter colours in their clothing and sharpen attention on this central group. This and other of Minton's Kent scenes in his 1945 Roland, Browse and Delbanco exhibition contributed significantly to its success.

    Frances Spalding is author of John Minton: Dance till the Stars Come Down (Lund Humphries, London, 2005) and we are grateful to her for compiling this catalogue entry.
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