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Watercolour - St. Bartholomew's Church, Orford, from the North-West
  • St. Bartholomew's Church, Orford, from the North-West
    Puller, Louisa, born 1884
  • Enlarge image

St. Bartholomew's Church, Orford, from the North-West

  • Object:

    Watercolour

  • Place of origin:

    Orford (painted)

  • Date:

    1942 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Puller, Louisa, born 1884 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour drawing on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Pilgrim Trust

  • Museum number:

    E.2140-1949

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The Recording Britain project includes two views of St Bartholomew's Church in Orford; this one, by the talented amateur Louisa Puller, is the more conventional of the two, with its view of the church in high summer, looking across a motley group of cottages, back gardens and lean-tos. The other view, by Jack L. Airy, shows the church from the opposite side, its ruined tower banked in snow. Such repetition is unusual in the scheme, but was felt to be justified because the two pictures are so different in conception and in character.

Physical description

A watercolour drawing of St Bartholomew's Church seen across several back gardens and over the roofs of cottages and various outbuildings. Its ruined tower is partly hidden from view. Telephone wires run across the upper third of the sheet.

Place of Origin

Orford (painted)

Date

1942 (painted)

Artist/maker

Puller, Louisa, born 1884 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour drawing on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Louisa Puller 1942'

Dimensions

Height: 14 in, Width: 17.75 in

Object history note

This is one of two views of St Bartholomew's Church, Orford, in the Recording Britain project (the other being Jack L. Airy's view from the south-west, which focuses on the ruined tower partly hidden in this watercolour). Such repetition is unusual in the scheme, but was felt to be justified in this case because the two pictures were so different in conception and in character.
This work is from the 'Recording Britain' collection of topographical watercolours and drawings made in the early 1940s during the Second World War. In 1940 the Committee for the Employment of Artists in Wartime, part of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, launched a scheme to employ artists to record the home front in Britain, funded by a grant from the Pilgrim Trust. It ran until 1943 and some of the country's finest watercolour painters, such as John Piper, Sir William Russell Flint and Rowland Hilder, were commissioned to make paintings and drawings of buildings, scenes, and places which captured a sense of national identity. Their subjects were typically English: market towns and villages, churches and country estates, rural landscapes and industries, rivers and wild places, monuments and ruins. Northern Ireland was not covered, only four Welsh counties were included, and a separate scheme ran in Scotland.

The scheme was known as 'Recording the changing face of Britain' and was established by Sir Kenneth Clark, then the director of the National Gallery. It ran alongside the official War Artists' Scheme, which he also initiated. Clark was inspired by several motives: at the outbreak of war in 1939, there was a concern to document the British landscape in the face of the imminent threat of bomb damage, invasion, and loss caused by the operations of war. This was allied to an anxiety about changes to the landscape already underway, such as the rapid growth of cities, road building and housing developments, the decline of rural ways of life and industries, and new agricultural practices, which together contributed to the idea of a 'vanishing Britain'. Clark also wanted to help artists, and the traditional forms of British art such as watercolour painting, to survive during the uncertain conditions of wartime. He in turn was inspired by America's Federal Arts Project which was designed to give artists employment during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Over 1500 works were eventually produced by 97 artists, of whom 63 were specially commissioned. At the time the collection had a propaganda role, intended to boost national morale by celebrating Britain's landscapes and heritage. Three exhibitions were held during the war at the National Gallery, and pictures from the collection were sent on touring exhibitions and to galleries all around the country. After the war, the whole collection was given to the V&A by the Pilgrim Trust in 1949, and it was documented in a four volume catalogue published between 1946 and 1949. For many years the majority of the collection was on loan to councils and record offices in each county, until recalled by the V&A around 1990. The pictures now form a memorial to the war effort, and a unique record of their time.

Historical context note

The tower of St Bartholomew's Church suffered a partial collapse in 1829.

Descriptive line

Watercolour, 'St Bartholomew's Church, Orford, from the North-West', by Louisa Puller. Puller, Louisa. Church Farm (from the Churchyard) Sudbourne. (Recording Britain, Suffolk).

Materials

Watercolour; Paper

Techniques

Watercolour drawing

Subjects depicted

Orford; Suffolk; Churches; Gardens; Topographical views

Categories

Recording Britain Collection; Paintings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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