Poetic Decisiveness of a Lonely London Painter

Surrey Side of the River – Grey Day circa 1886 Paul Maitland 1863-1909 Presented anonymously in memory of Sir Terence Rattigan 1983 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T03626

While visiting a show called British Art from Whistler to WWII, at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, I was taking in several pieces and passing along to the next one,  until I came across the work of Paul Maitland.  I stopped, stayed, lingered, walked away and then returned to stay even a little longer.  I immediately responded to the two small paintings hanging there as something extraordinary from a painter who lived long ago and of whom I knew nothing about.

Someone once said, every painting is a self-portrait.   Let this idea resonate and it makes sense that each artists’ interpretation or delivery of the subject has some indication of his or her trait and personality woven into the artwork. Another adage is that silence is often louder than words.  This is what I believe I find in Paul Maitland.

A little casual internet research tells me that Mr. Maitland lived in the mid to late eighteen hundreds in Chelsea outside of London, England until his death in 1909.  He was a contemporary and friend of Whistler (Think of the so called “Whistler’s Mother” painting) and other artists known informally as the London Impressionists.   As nature gave way to industry, Paul and a few others turned their eye to the new warehouses and factories popping up here and there, during the new industrial age.  His sphere of influence was limited as he apparently never travelled too far from where he lived due to a spinal condition that was a handicap for him.

It was said apparently, that while walking along the river Thames, even on the greyest of days, one would see boats, buildings, trees and the “painter”.    So, it must be the man, not the subject, that I see in his works.   I sense an echo of solitary determination, with a limited use of color, his ability to transfer his honed observation and sensitivity to the most benign and rudimentary subjects into abstract descriptions that reach to the edge of modern familiarity and fascination.  So precise and economic are the painters decisive strokes, that I felt the painting, and I pictured the painter witnessing the transition from nature to industry, treating everything as a poetic meditation.

See more of his work by visiting the Tate Museum website: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/paul-maitland-1559

Also see:

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, British Art from Whistler to WWII

and also this Maitland painting from SBMoA Collection, (the one that impressed me so much)

(This post is not a scholarly article, it is the opinion and impression of an artist writing about another artist for the simple  purpose of introducing the enjoyment and discussion of art and artists to a general audience.)



2 Replies to “Poetic Decisiveness of a Lonely London Painter”

  1. Thanks, Curtis. I always love reading your impressions and reflections on the world of fine art. Hoping this finds you and Roz well.

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