Springtime in Eskdale

WAG 2597


Patrick painted this work in his studio after a trip to ‘The Crooks,’ a farmhouse in Scotland. He used outdoor sketches, memories of the visit and his imagination to create the landscape. Patrick loved to paint out of doors, believing that his landscapes could encourage people to appreciate nature: "I don't suppose there is much sentimentality about my paintings, but I have a deep feeling that Nature is immensely dignified when you are out of doors. I am struck by the dignity of everything." The painting’s high viewpoint makes us feel part of the scene. The lane draws the eye into the middle of the picture. Patrick’s works explore our relationship with nature and how people change the landscape. Springtime in Eskdale" depicts The Crooks in Eskdalemuir, a typical Dumfriesshire scene. It was the early home of Thomas Telford (1757-1834), Britain's most celebrated civil engineer. Patrick began it in the spring of 1934 to mark Telford's centenary, but only completed it by the end of the year. The strong design of "Springtime in Eskdale", with the graduation of planes from the foreground to the background and the variety of lines and divisions in the picture, suggests the influence of the famous Scottish designer Charles Rennie MackIntosh (1868-1928). Such a strong design element is also a reference to the work of Thomas Telford and the art of appropriating nature for the benefit of people. The farm, the stone wall and the ploughed fields all point to a man-made rural environment rather than divine creation. The theme of the seasons was suggested to Patrick by print publisher Harold Dickins after the success of Patrick's "Winter in Angus" in the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1935. The two remaining season paintings by Patrick are "Autumn, Kinnorby" (Dundee Arts and Heritage Gallery) and "Midsummer in East Fife" (Aberdeen Art Galleries and Museums [opens new window]), both views of areas close to Dundee. In "Springtime in Eskdale" Patrick used a high viewpoint and the pattern of the twisted path to lead the viewers' eye into the depth of his composition. It was a technique that he admired in the work of Van Gogh and tried to assimilate into his own. This method of spatial organisation became the hallmark of his work and was intended to make the viewer feel part of the landscape. One of the most distinct features of the painting is the trees, which Patrick considered one of nature's greatest gifts because of the way they defy gravity and hold a mass of branch and leaf aloft. He never attempted to draw a tree from memory, preferring to capture the rhythm of its structure from direct observation. Patrick believed that by painting trees so vividly he could persuade people to appreciate them more. Despite the unusual clarity of the painting, colour and light in "Springtime in Eskdale" are particularly illusionistic. Patrick created his own vision of the landscape by drawing from what he saw and combining it with what he imagined and remembered.