Begonias
By Mary Newcomb

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Year
1997
Media
Watercolour
Subject Matter
Still Life and Flowers
Reg. Number
G1415
Size
81 x 75 cm

Mary Newcomb(1922-2008) displayed an affinity with English folk art and a grasp of natural science that was anything but naive. Mary's work came to be collected by the stars of a cosmopolitan world, including film directors, television personalities, business magnates. She was born Mary Slatford at Harrow-on-the-Hill, but she developed a passion for the English countryside while growing up in Wiltshire. Next to nature, art really was her mainspring and, in 1945, she volunteered as a student helper in the Flatford Mill Field Studies Centre being set up by bird painter Eric Ennion on the Suffolk-Essex border. Lodging in Willy Lott's Cottage, overlooking a favourite scene of Constable, she learned the art of observation and of taking copious notes and sketches to keep an image fresh in the mind's eye. On marrying trainee farmer Godfrey Newcomb, they lived on small farms in the Waveney valley where a fledgling painter would find everything she needed for her art. With a dozen solo exhibitions at Crane Kalman from 1970, and further shows across Europe and in America, the Newcomb name was firmly on the map. There were purchases by numerous public galleries including the Tate and in 1996, a splendid monograph by Christopher Andreae, recently republished. Her art lay in the rhythms of nature and the rituals of rural life - in her chickens, guinea fowl and, best of all, sheep, in village fetes and country shows, or in incidents glimpsed as she travelled on the bus, or walked or bicycled. Her canvas ranged from the tiniest insects to the night sky. Lyrical titles could underline the poetry of the pictures. She made a key point about the ways in which everything can connect within the harmony of the universe. Acclaimed by fellow artists from Ben Nicholson to Mary Fedden, she was also admired by numerous writers. JG Farrell ended his novel The Singapore Grip by detailing her paintings on the wall above him as he wrote.