The Ice Cream Cart signed 'Colin M' (lower right) oil on canvas 50.6 x 60 cm. (20 x 23 5/8 in.) Painted circa 1941
PROVENANCE: With the McClelland Gallery Sale; The McClelland Collection; James Adam's in association with Bonhams, Dublin, 7 December 2005, lot 29, where purchased by the present owner
EXHIBITED: Belfast, Stranmillis Museum & Art Gallery, 115 Works by Colin Middleton, August 1943 Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Colin Middleton: Paintings and Drawings from the McClelland Collection, January-June 2001
LITERATURE: Dickon Hall, Colin Middleton: A Study, Bangor, Joga Press, 2001, p.11 (ill.)
Painted at the height of the war and around the time of the Belfast blitz, The Ice Cream Cart is a surprisingly gentle and almost comic painting, noticeably different in mood from Colin Middleton's more poignant and wistful wartime paintings of Belfast. The intense and non-naturalistic colour immediately create a mood detached from the realities of wartime Belfast, while the broken brushstrokes across the surface deliberately create a slightly naive handling and description of form. Like many of these other Belfast paintings, however, the repeated rectangles and squares across the painting indicate a strong compositional structure. Middleton also demonstrates the sophistication behind any apparent naivety by placing the awkward shape of the cart at the front of the picture space and slightly tilting the space towards us, but still managing to lead the eye behind it and around the canvas.
While the fish and chip shop and the off licence are reminders of the adult world, this is almost a dream world in a time of rationing, with only two approaching children and a cat in sight and even the adult owner of the cart absent. The Ice Cream Cart was also included in the 'Miscellaneous' section of Middleton's 1943 exhibition that marked the re-opening of Belfast Museum and Art Gallery, a remarkable tribute given to a young painter who was only becoming well-known locally at that time.
We are grateful to Dickon Hall for compiling this catalogue entry.