Exhibited: 50/50; Fifty British Women Artists 1900 ‚Äì 1950, Worshipful Company of Mercers (3rd December
2018 – 23rd March, 2019); The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds (9th April, 2019 – 27th
Country Studio is a wartime picture, produced while Mary Potter was
living temporarily at Berwick Hall, (a large house near Topplesfield in
Essex), with her two children and husband Stephen.
Something of this make-do situation can be felt in this picture. The
easel announces that the room is a studio, and there are also papers on
the table, empty frames and the back of a canvas in view. But the room is
very obviously a comfortable living room ‚Äì possibly a dining room ‚Äì put
to other use. It has a large, not quite square window which appears to
be open as it offers an uninterrupted view of the drive leading to a white
gate between two pillars with stone balls on top and an avenue of trees
beyond. The whole scenario offers a very interesting exercise between
near and far ‚Äì notice that the nearby edge of the picture table comes
right up to the very forefront of the picture plan. Its horizontal line is
echoed in various other horizontals elsewhere and is challenged by the
verticals found in the easel, in cupboards and the sides of the window.
The room is dusky, its colours a combination of cool greens and warm
browns and pinks, all held together by the addition of white in order to
match and marry tonal values. Nevertheless, the dominant ingredient is
light, which touches the armchair and spreads across the floor and table,
highlighting the glass dome and the view outside. These two seem to
call to each other, setting up a tension that keeps us in the room while
at the same time attracted to the lightness and freedom conveyed by the
view. At moments, the entire room seems to act as a frame for this view
through the window, but in fact it is this toing and froing that holds our
attention ‚Äì the conjoining of inner and outer.
Commentary by Frances Spalding, art historian, writer and curator specialising in twentieth-century British art,
biography and cultural history. She is former Editor of the Burlington Magazine.