Edith Grace Wheatley (1888-1970):
The China Cupboard, 1910
Framed (ref: 6563)
Oil on panel
20 x16 in. (51 x 41 cm)
Provenance: Collection of Griff and Jo Rhys Jones
I have very few pictures that I instinctively tracked down as soon as I saw them in order to see if I could buy them, and this is one of them. There are elements that I like. I like the Nicholson glints on the china and the lustre wear, though it is not Nicholson. I like the Vuillard colour range, though it is not in the style of Vuillard. It is a little too controlled for that. The detail and the sense of pattern is slightly naïve. I like that too. It is assured. The subject herself is assured, too, isn’t she? It has nice tone. It is actually an example of a style of painting that I love: coming out of a Slade School training with skill and competence, embracing certain freedoms and ‘modern’ qualities of subject matter which are then addressed with that hard-won skill. It’s not Modernist. It’s not very daring. It doesn’t embrace any European Post-Impressionist thrust. In a very English way, it doesn’t even seem to know of their existence. There are no ‘isms’ at work here. And no critic is going to get terribly excited, because it doesn’t kick art history down the road at all. But it is completely of its period. It tells you about the taste of the sitter – in the rug, the china, the paintings on the wall, and more than anything the dress. This is the interior and a person before the First World War. And it is feminist. We do not feel that she has been painted because she is pretty. Though she is. She has been painted because she is a person. In that way, it is brilliantly ‘ordinary’. With echoes of Ginner and Whistler. The white print is the only odd bit. The perspective seems wrong. And I wonder if it was entirely finished. Anyway, as a little slice of English history and period it is satisfying. And the dress is just great. You know, I think she made it herself and that is the point of the picture.
Commentary by Griff Rhys Jones, actor, writer and presenter who has worked largely in television and the West End over the last forty years. He is currently touring his stand-up show ‘Where was I?’ in Australia and New Zealand.