After graduating from The Royal College of Art, London in 1946, Deirdre Borlase had almost no time to paint for twenty years as she was busy raising her children, but she still made sketches in her spare time. This oil landscape was made after her last child had left home and is executed in the quick, free style of her earlier sketches.
This small oil painting uses a loose technique in mainly muted colours to portray a rural scene in winter. Pen Hill is near Carperby in Wensleydale, Yorkshire where Deirdre lived for many years. The flat-topped hill under lowering skies dominates a view of fields and farm buildings.
The scene is viewed from behind a raised wall in the bottom right of the painting. The white circular patches may indicate the stonework of a dry-stone dyke, or possibly that it is partially covered in snow. The biggest expanse of snow is on a rectangular field in the centre of the painting. Nearby is a farm building, a simple structure, with two windows facing the snowy field and a patch of greyish white on the roof suggesting a light covering of snow.
A grey-green road or path leads from the bottom left of the painting and forks just before the building. Behind the building is a dark green clump of trees, with more trees, or possibly a dark building near the right of the picture. There is a larger tree plantation further round to the left at the bottom of the hill.
The dominant colours of the painting are ochre, reddish-brown and shades of dark green. The threatening effect of the hill is emphasised by the stormy sky above. Blueish-grey, charcoal and white-tipped clouds are contrasted with a streak of bright pink, which may indicate the sunset at the end of the short winter day.
The limited palette, the loose brush strokes and the impressionistic appearance of much of the painting make the viewer feel part of a bleak wintry scene - with some snow still lying after a partial thaw and the clouds promising more snow to come.
Deirdre Borlase was born in London, and studied at the Royal College of Art. She taught at Kingston-upon-Thames School of Art, Harrow School of Art and Morley College. Her work has been exhibited widely. She has worked in oils, water-colour and computer-based painting. She now lives in York, though after suffering a stroke several years ago, she no longer paints. Her son-in-law, Stephen Gavin, who hosts the website, has indicated that she will be pleased to know that her donated paintings are still giving pleasure in hospitals.