Exhibited: ‘For Real: British Realists from the 20s and 30s’, Museum MORE, Gorssel (September 15th, 2019 ‚Äì January 5th, 2020).
Little is known about Margaret Duncan, other than that she worked
as an art teacher at Huyton College (1935‚Äì1947), moving from there
to St Katharine’s College, Tottenham. She exhibited a painting, The
Annunciation, at the Royal Academy in 1941. This painted screen,
presumably for domestic use, may be a little earlier than her RA exhibit,
although its deliberately pastoral feel ‚Äì no vehicles or other modern
conveniences are shown ‚Äì makes it hard to be sure.
A preliminary sketch labelled ‚ÄúDesign for Mural Decoration‚Äù helps
with the identification of features. Duncan probably took her view
from the tower of St Mary’s Church, to the east of Reigate, looking
roughly north-west across the town but moving the North Downs to
form a backdrop. On the right is the abandoned chalk pit biting into
the flank of Reigate Hill, with Colley Hill and Box Hill to its left (west).
Prominent among the town’s buildings are the former Town Hall of
c.1728 and the gothic gatehouse folly of 1777 on the site of Reigate’s
Norman castle. In the left foreground is Reigate Park (labelled on the
sketch). One curiosity is that the prominent building beyond, set in a
sunken formal garden, is there labelled ‚ÄúReigate Priory‚Äù. However, this is
clearly not that, but apparently Cherchefelle, a five-bay house of c.1770
in Chart Lane, close to St Mary’s Church. Did Duncan assemble this view
from a series of individual sketches and inadvertently get two buildings
Commentary by Paul Stamper, landscape historian, specialising in the post-Roman countryside. After a career with the Victoria County History and English Heritage, he now runs his own heritage consultancy ‚Äî Paul Stamper Heritage.
Exhibited: Sanctuary, Artist-Gardeners, 1919-39, Garden Museum, London, 25th February ‚Äì 5 April, 2020
Literature: Christopher Woodward, Sanctuary: Artist-Gardeners, 1919‚Äì1939, published by Liss Llewellyn, 2020