Head of Department
Blazing a Trail / Sheila Fell R.A. (British, 1931-1979) Fields near the Solway 71.1 x 91.4 cm. (28 x 36 in.)
£12,000 - £18,000
Sale; Sotheby's, London, 25 June 1980, lot 147
Private Collection, U.K.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition, 2 May-26 July 1970, cat.no.575
When Sheila Fell exhibited this and five other paintings at the RA Summer Exhibition in 1970 it was a time of continuing artistic success for the 38-year-old painter. The previous year she had been elected an Associate Member of the RA, and her solo exhibition at the Stone Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne had been highly rated by the critics, the correspondent for The Times noting that '...her ability to enlarge and intensify our vision of the northern landscape, as exemplified by her native Cumberland, must surely establish a place for her in the great tradition of English landscape painting' (The Times, 4 June 1969).
Fields near the Solway, completed in Fell's London studio, captures very effectively her powerful emotional response to the lowland area of the Solway Plain in West Cumberland where she was born and raised and with which she was so familiar. The low horizon, typical of Fell's work from this period, unites the turbulent sky with the richly painted land, the rounded mass of the haystacks mirroring the grey billowing clouds laden with moisture from the Irish sea. The scene is imbued with a luminous glow and in the centre foreground a solitary figure, dwarfed by the scale of the land in which they work and barely distinguishable from it, obliquely faces the viewer with an air of acceptance, or even defiance, for the unforgiving climate. It was a climate Sheila Fell embraced: 'It's wonderful for a painter – especially when it's cloudy, raining and dark. It's the only place in the world where you can get such wonderful conditions of light and shade – and the only place where I can paint' (Daily Express, 2 June 1969).
We are grateful to Professor Andrew Bradley for compiling this catalogue entry. Professor Bradley is currently preparing the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the Artist's work and would like to hear from owners of any work by the Artist so that these can be included in this comprehensive catalogue. Please write to Professor Andrew Bradley, C/O Modern British and Irish Art, Bonhams, 101 New Bond Street, London, W1S 1SR or email [email protected]