Oil on canvas: 31.7(h) x 26.5(w) in / 80.6(h) x 67.3(w) cm
Signed lower right: Harold Harvey
Penzance 1874 - 1941 Newlyn
Ref: BZ 190
Signed lower right: Harold Harvey
Oil on canvas: 31 ¾ x 26 ½ in / 80.6 x 67.3 cm
Frame size: 39 ½ x 34 in / 100.3 x 86.4 cm
Painted circa 1910-14
Possibly, Debenham Coe, London, 10th May 1972, lot 45
Richard Green, London, 1986
Private collection, UK, 1987, acquired from the above
London, Richard Green, Modern British Paintings, May 1987, no.30, p.64, illus. in colour p.65
Peter Risdon, Pauline Sheppard, with an introduction by Kenneth McConkey, Harold Harvey, Painter of Cornwall, Sansom & Company in association with Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Bristol, 2001, no.598, p.168(?)
It would be surprising indeed if the soil and climate had no influence upon an artist’s work, whatever his racial origin, and so a ‘Cornish’ feeling is discernible … in Harold Harvey’s art.
Despite the incursions of automation in the early twentieth century, rural life in Cornwall remained largely untouched. As elsewhere in coastal areas, the closer a traveller progressed towards Land’s End, the more inhospitable the landscape became, and if Harold Harvey moved inland it was to the rich, temperate fields and woodlands around Tredavoe, the village directly above Newlyn where he is thought to have painted The Plough Team (Private Collection) around 1900. Here, and in the peaceful fields and orchards around his native Penzance, clumps of self-seeded daffodils grew in springtime, to be gathered for kitchen displays in middle-class homes. The commercial production of flowers in Cornwall, a new and expanding industry seen in Harvey’s later canvas, Anemones, 1926 (Private Collection), was yet to come, but here, in Daffodils, in the days leading up to the Great War, a gentler activity is in progress. As his reputation had grown in the early years of the century, the artist looked beyond the harbour to this kind of rural subject matter in smaller works such as Spring in the orchard, narcissus, circa 1912 (fig 1).
Fig 1 H Harvey, Spring in the orchard, narcissus, c. 1912
Oil on canvas: 18 x 14 in / 45.7 x 35.6 cm
Private collection, previously Richard Green
This charming anticipation of Daffodils is handled in a broadly similar way – particularly in the contrast between the dark green strokes deployed in the flowering clumps, and the warmer surrounding greens and yellows of the grassy floor. Picking flowers was something for all ages. During his boyhood, the Harvey family supported two serving girls, like those we see in the present work and it is not unlikely that maids such as these went off at moments of respite to pick flowers. Other aspects of the work suggest comparison with Apples 1912, in a composition that takes the eye from a wicker basket, resting on the lower edge of the picture, to the principal standing figure, before delving under leafless trees to find a kneeling woman and her companion (fig.2). In the present case, all three figures are sculpted by light, as they work with their backs to the sun.
Fig.2 H Harvey, Apples, 1912 Fig.3 Henry Herbert La Thangue, Gathering plums, 1901
Oil on canvas: 59 ¾ x 55 ¾ in / 152 x 142 cm Oil on canvas: 43 ¼ x 36 ½ in / 110.4 x 92.4 cm
Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro Manchester City Art Galleries
The ensemble is one loosely derived from Bastien-Lepage and adopted to great effect in the orchard and woodland scenes of Henry Herbert La Thangue, in works such as Cutting bracken, 1898, (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne) and Gathering plums 1901, (fig.3) – one of Harvey’s mentors.
What the Cornish artist brings to the subject is, however, a deeper space, a more varied Impressionist touch, and that moment of respite, when under a hot sun, a young woman stands, rests her back and lifts her head, to straighten locks of hair that fallen when she was stooping. In so doing she casts an eye to the heavens on this sultry day in spring. If this was to be claimed as the ‘Cornish feeling’ in Harvey’s art, it was universal.
A descendant of considerable Cornish lineage, Harold Harvey was one of the few Newlyn artists to spend his entire life in Cornwall, apart from one brief period abroad. Described in The Studio, 1924, as one of the 'truest and sincerest of British Painters,' his works were considered 'genuine interpretations of place and people', and praised for their success in conveying 'the peculiar and rather wistful geniality of this corner of England'. He first studied under Norman Garstin, and then went to Paris during the 1890s, where he continued his studies at the Academie Julian under Benjamin Constant and Jean-Paul Laurens. On his return, he married Gertrude, who was also an artist, and they settled in Newlyn. A prolific painter of varied subjects and styles, Harvey never achieved his due critical acclaim. He was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy from 1898-1941 and held several one-man exhibitions in London, at the Mendoza Galleries, Barbizon House and the Leicester Galleries. Harvey's artistic development reveals an ability to assimilate the changing Newlyn styles. The muted palette of his first works denote an appreciation of the early generation, especially Alexander Stanhope Forbes. He then adopted more brilliant colours, comparable to the contemporary works produced by Laura Knight. From circa 1915, he painted in an increasingly flat, decorative style and broadened the range of his subjects which now included sophisticated interior scenes. By the 1920s his figures both in style and scale display the influence of Dod Procter. Essentially a realist painter of local life, Harvey's works reflect above all a deeply felt commitment to his beloved Cornish home.
 ‘Tis’, ‘About Harold Hervey’, Colour, October 1920; quoted in Peter Ridson and Pauline Sheppard, Harold Harvey, Painter of Cornwall, 2001 (Sansom & Co), p. 93.