Peaceful rest signed 'Edward Stott' (lower left) oil on canvas 60.5 x 81cm (23 13/16 x 31 7/8in).
PROVENANCE: Private collection, UK
EXHIBITED: London, Royal Academy, 1902, no. 281
LITERATURE: Royal Academy Illustrated, 1902, p.80 Pall Mall Magazine 'Extra', Pictures of 1902, 1902, p. 85 'Fine Arts: The Royal Academy II', The Athenaeum, 24 May 1902, p. 665 'Current Art: The Royal Academy Exhibition II', The Magazine of Art, 1902, p. 398 M.H. Spielmann, 'A First Look round the Royal Academy', The Graphic, 3 May 1902, p. 595 Marion Hepworth Dixon, 'Edward Stott: An Appreciation', The Studio, vol LV, 1912, p. 9
By the turn of the twentieth century, poetic sentiment had emerged in the work of Edward Stott. In the critical debate, the word 'Impressionism' was, James Stanley Little remarked, 'something of a misnomer'1. Colour may be his preoccupation, but his work was now frequently described as pastoral, bucolic and at times, elegiac. Stott had succumbed to the charm of his surroundings to motifs drawn from the rich pasture surrounding Amberley in Sussex. These grazing grounds at the foot of the South Downs frequently flooded as the river Arun, swollen with spring rain, often burst its banks. At the pools and ponds that appeared in nearby fields and chalk pits, horses, cattle and sheep were, as Stott observed,ritually brought to drink. Increasingly his shepherds and cowherdswere enveloped in a romantic idyll that carried the spectator back through the work of Samuel Palmer to find spiritual solace in Virgilian groves. Amberley became Arcadia.
Stott drew upon a rich visual and literary heritage that was currently being revived in the poetry of A.E. Housman and the writings of W.H. Hudson on the shepherd's life. As part of his researches, Hudson recorded his lonely existence when for days the only sound he might hear on the downs was that of tiny bells tied round the necks of his sheep. He noted that the old customs of sheep husbandry were falling into abeyance in Sussex. Farmers for instance no longer paid a shepherd with five or six lambs a year in addition to his wage. The forms of partnership between master and servant that reinforced loyalty to the well-being of the flock were being eroded. Cash was replacing 'in kind' and barter systems on the land and while none of this was directly important for Stott's pastoral vision, it emphasised the sense that burgeoning mechanized industry in cities and towns had brought past and present into a state of tension.2 In the year following the death of Queen Victoria and the ending of the South African War, English sensibilities are likely to have been tuned to lines from A.E. Housman, wherein his Shropshire Lad, 'on moonlit heath and lonesome bank / the sheep beside me graze', might reflect that '... the road one treads to labour/will lead one home to rest'3
By 1902, when Peaceful Rest was shown at the Royal Academy, Stott had been developing imagery associated with sheep husbandry for a dozen years or more. Back in 1889 for instance, he had shown Returning to the Fold (unlocated) at the New English Art Club, while in 1898 his impressive canvas, The Fold (The Penfold), 1898 (Rochdale Art Gallery, see fig. 1) appeared at the Academy.
Between the two there were numerous drawings and pastel studies describing downland flocks. Clusters of sheep often appear in similar configurations, but the familiar poses were never quite the same when seen in different lights and seasons. Touring the Royal Academy in 1902 M.H. Spielmann, editor of The Magazine of Art, picked up on these resonances in a short piece for The Graphic, declaring that, '... in landscapes, Mr Edward Stott tells once more with admirable force, for his modest and subdued visions of rustic life and scenery are sincere in spirit and subtly fine in colour'. With more space in his own journal he went on to explain that the painter's works had
'...all his habitual minuteness of observation and delicate balancing of tone against tone and tint against tint, but it is more sensitive as an expression of nature, and more subtle in its gradation of colour, than any of his previous works.' 4
The picture of the resting shepherd with his ever-alert sheepdog was, with its companion, Youth and Age, (unlocated) among the most satisfying canvases Stott had yet produced. Such was its success that it was followed by other works expanding its subject matter, such as Folding Time, 1904 (Ferens Art Gallery, Hull) The Shepherd, 1905 (Private Collection), and Lambing Time, 1906 (Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, see fig. 2). The sheepdog in the latter work of 1906, derived from The Fold, virtually replicates that in the present lot.
In an account that concentrates upon Stott's working methods, ACR Carter was convinced that
'There is no skim-milk process here. The excursionist has not dumped his easel down in a field, and after titillating a canvas for a few days, produced an 'Idyll of Amberley'. Here is blood and treasure. The noonday sun streaming down upon the mead, or piercing through the shady canopy of a pool, the twilight gathering round the folded sheep, or the tired wayfarers, have been watched and remembered for many a long day.'
The tentative Impressionist, hailed by George Moore, had gained in strength. Like Robert Burns, Stott did not produce his poems 'after a scamper through the Lowlands'5. What Housman described as the 'hiving process' of memory took time to yield its richness6. It was a richness informed by Millet and Bastien-Lepage but it also included Palmer's Sleeping Shepherd, and Claude's pastorals with their illustrious pedigree in Keats, Milton and Virgil.
1J Stanley Little, 'On the Work of Edward Stott', The Studio, Vol VI, 1896, p. 80. 2 W.H. Hudson, Nature in Downland, 1900, JM Dent ed., 1932, pp. 109-110. 3A.E. Housman, Collected Poems, 1930, Penguin ed., 1956), p. 30. 4'Current Art: The Royal Academy Exhibition II', The Magazine of Art, 1902, p. 398; M.H. Spielmann, 'A First Look round the Royal Academy', The Graphic, 3 May 1902, p. 595 5A.C.R. Carter, 'Edward Stott and his Work', The Art Journal, 1899, p. 295. 6Laurence Housman, 'Mr Edward Stott, Painter of the Field and of the Twilight', The Magazine of Art, 1900, p. 532.
We are grateful to Professor Kenneth McConkey for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.