Forward British 20th C, except portraits, East of England: Artists and Subjects 5 Is this Trinity College Bridge? Is anything known of the artist, E. D. Farmer?

Topic: Subject or sitter

Is this a view of the Backs on the River Cam in Cambridge looking towards James Essex's 1764 Portland stone Trinity College Bridge? See Wikipedia’s List of bridges in Cambridge [with photos]: the photo there shows the bridge from the other side, as one can see from the trees.

Does anyone know more about the artist, E. D. Farmer, who was active in the 1960s?

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Malcolm Fowles,

Google "trinity+bridge"+cambridge in Images, for a much larger selection mostly from reputable sources. If you look at detailed photos (e.g. this rendition of the bridge is approximate. However the overall curve, arches, punts and towpath suggest to me that it is indeed meant to be Trinity Bridge.

The trees on the left bank of the RH bend in the river beyond appear in both the painting and the Wikipedia image, therefore from the same side. The artist would have been on Garret Hostel Lane Bridge. A foreshortened view through the latter - - includes Trinity Bridge, willows and punts.

Andrea Kollmann,

All three paintings by E.D. Farmer on ArtUK are part of the collection of the University of Liverpool. So maybe the artist is Edward Desmond Farmer ( ), former dean of the Faculty of Medicine (he was a dental surgeon; one of E.D. Farmer’s paintings on ArtUK is called ‘Old Dental School’). He was also a member of the University Art Group and exhibited at their group exhibitions from the mid 1970ies onwards.

Jacinto Regalado,

Did Farmer attend Cambridge? Liverpool should know.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, everyone is right, well done. The view might conceivably have been looking from the same footbridge in the other direction...if it were not for the group of punts on the right (they are still kept there today, at 'Trinity College Punts').

This is the best analogue for the view I can find from a quick search: We can even identify the time of year: the fairly sparse foliage on the trees shows it is spring not summer - probably a shade later than the photo, say mid-April - and this is confirmed by the relatively small number of punts ready on the river - the group gets bigger as the season progresses.

Andrea has undoubtedly identified the artist correctly. Edward Desmond Farmer (1917-1999) was indeed a Cambridge man - after a first degree at Liverpool before and during the early part of the war (during which he served as a Surgeon Lieut in the RNVR), he went up to Queen's College 1948-50. Queen's is also on the river, about 400 yards behind the artist's viewpoint on the bridge (which is next to Trinity Hall). This work may perhaps date from his time there, but I tend to think it is later: he doubtless had reason to visit Cambridge many times in his long and very distinguished career, both inside and out of dentistry - he was, for example, much involved with Age Concern for ten years after his retirement, and on their national executive committee 1988–92.

This work, titled currently 'River Scene with Bridge', has now been identified as a 'View on the River Cam in Cambridge looking towards Trinity College Bridge'. The artist's viewpoint would have been from Garret Hostel Lane Bridge. It is recommended that the title of the work should be amended accordingly.

The artist's full names are Edward Desmond Farmer (1917-1999). After a first degree at The University of Liverpool before and during the early part of World War II (during which he served as a Surgeon Lieutenant in the RNVR), E D Farmer went up to Queen's College, Cambridge in 1948-50. Queen's is also on the River Cam, thus the present view would have been very familiar to him. Farmer later became Professor of the School of Dentistry at The University of Liverpool. The university decided to establish an annual exhibition of art work produced by staff at the university and in June 1976 Professor Farmer opened the first such exhibition. He was much involved with the charity Age Concern for ten years after his retirement, and on their national executive committee 1988–92.

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