British 20th C, except portraits, London: Artists and Subjects 25 Was this painted in the late 1950s by an artist who studied at Camberwell?

WYR_KLMUS_2006_54
Topic: Artist

It is possible this painting was made in the late 1950s by an artist who studied at Camberwell and with Carel Weight and Dick Lee. It could be by John Hooper or Peter Saunders and may depict Brockley Gardens.

Kirklees Museums and Galleries has no more information on the painting.

Art UK has been in contact with John Hooper, who has confirmed that the painting was not made by him. Art UK has not been able to get confirmation from the copyright holder of the work of Peter Saunders on whether this could be his painting. Any information would be appreciated.

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

25 comments

Can I suggest contacting Angela Weight, Carol Weight's daughter, who was Keeper of Art at the Imperial War Museum but has now retired. Her contact details must be available from the IWM.
Oliver Green

Osmund Bullock,

Brockley Gardens is hard to find, as it's not an actual street name. It turns out to be a terrace of 14 squat inter-war houses, all attached, with red tile roofs, on the west side of Upper Brockley Rd, SE4 1SZ, adjacent to its junction with Ashby Rd. Images of front & back attached.

The house in the painting, however, is Victorian (or just conceivably early Edwardian), semi-detached, with taller proportions, a full-height (original) rear extension, quite different fenestration and a slate roof. It cannot possibly be the same. Nor can it be the view *from* (the rear of) Brockley Gdns: the houses are perhaps the right sort of age, but are three-storey (not two), and it's their frontage (to a side road between) that faces the back of B. Gdns. Image attached. The same is true for the view from the front - right sort of age, but four-storey and facing the road.

Where did the idea come from, Martin - did Saunders live in B. Gdns? I reckon it's later than the 50s, too, even the end - more like 60s or 70s.

Martin Hopkinson,

I think that I may have misunderstood my informant who lived in Brockley in a building like this and painted it frequently. He must have lived in Brockley , but not in this street and called his paintings Brockley Gardens not after the street , but after the gardens at the back of the house in which he was living.

Martin Hopkinson,

Angela Weight is not related to the painter, who had no children according to Angela

Betty Elzea,

In Geoff Hassell's 'Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, 1943-1950' (1995) the illustrations show several could-be candidates such as Frank Collins (b.1938), Don Jarvis (b.1936), Anhony Eyton (b.1923). I wonder if a note to Geoff Hassell would help?

Patricia Baxendale,

It may be worth considering JEAN COOKE or possibly her husband John Bratby. Jean studied under Weight and lived in south London. She often painted gardens with blossoming trees. See Magnolia and Doves and other paintings online---similar approach, although this looks as though it could be much earlier, less expressive work.

Andrew Chamberlain,

The design of the rear of the house is similar to blocks of attached houses on either side of Harefield Road, Brockley, as can be seen in the attached Google Earth image.

1 attachment
Malcolm Fowles,

Andrew's is a rational choice, because most other houses in Brockley have semi-detached rear extensions, unlike the single end-terrace house as painted. Our view would have been painted from Cranfield Road. One particular house in Harefield Road appears to have a neighbour with a telltale single-storey sloping roof at the rear, so with effort one might pin down the exact address.

I'm not convinced by the height of the extension, though this could be an effect of perspective. I doubt 'artistic licence', because there is so much attention to detail.

The Bird's Eye view on Bing Maps is far clearer than Google in this case. If anyone wants to, you could search the whole of Brockley ward.

Osmund Bullock,

I agree with you, Malcolm, that the degree of detail suggests the portrayal of the house is reasonably accurate (despite a few confusing anomalies in what we see), but I don’t quite understand what you mean by a “semi-detached rear extension”. It’s perhaps worth looking carefully at some of the house's basic structural features (see the attached diagram for some of the relevant terms).

It’s certainly either end-terrace or semi-detached, and it is 2 or 2½ stories - there appears to be a dark semi-basement window peeping out from behind the greenhouse. The main roof has a hipped end, and coming towards us on the LHS is a full-height extension (i.e a projection forming an 'L', as originally built) which also has a hip – you can see the ridge tiles along the two edges facing us. This is unusual – the vast majority of Victorian town houses have a gable or lean-to roof on the rear extension, and most of them are lower than the main block and roof (thus avoiding the complexity of joining two roofs). This hip-roofed extension either intersects with the main roof slope, or just possibly is a pyramid hip (i.e.it has its own little four-sided hat) – we cannot see which as it is pointing directly towards us. But either way this suggests a mid, rather than late-C19th house: I would guess 1850s, perhaps a bit later and possibly earlier. The slim, tall double-hung sash windows tend to point in the same date direction. The little lean-to structure on the right side is a later addition (there is no equivalent in the adjoining house to the right), and is clearly pretty ramshackle – it probably no longer exists in the same form. And note that the (separate) house to the left has a much lower roof-line – either a shorter house, or if the same (the chimneys do match) then there must be a fairly steep hill rising from left to right (which of course means rising right to left at the front).

All of which completely rules out any of the houses in Harefield Rd, I’m afraid. Even if the house matched better I would doubt that this could be the view from an upper rear window of Cranfield Rd – both streets have long gardens, and the houses are about 70 yards apart.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

Are we not rather putting the cart before the horse here? The possibility of a house in Brockley is highly conjectural, and based only on a suggestion from one informant – it was worth exploring when we seemed to have a street name, but now we only have an area. Equally, while Peter (Edward) Saunders is a plausible idea, it only gains real traction from the Brockley connection. Unfortunately I can find no telephone directory listing for a Peter/P./P.E. Saunders (nor his father William/W./W.J.) in SE4 from 1958-1983 (the last available online), and he’s not listed there either in one old 1998 London directory I have. We don’t even know if he actually lived in Brockley, merely that he painted it late in life and lived somewhere in South London.

The truth is this house could be anywhere, and not just London – I know of broadly similar types and ages of housing in Oxford, Cheltenham, Bristol, Brighton and Edinburgh, and there will be countless other places. Without a likely street or artist’s name to work with, we are highly unlikely to get anywhere by trying to spot the house.

The Collection state that they have no further information on the painting, but I imagine they are referring to their records. The first thing to do is check that there’s nothing on the back, by way of inscriptions or exhibition labels – on C20th works there often is. And of course look for a signature on the front – there are apparent squiggles in both the left & right bottom corners that could just possibly be something (though I suspect not).

Martin Hopkinson,

An oil painting of a similar garden undoubtedly in Brockley hangs in my sister in law's house in Ontario. It was painted by John Hooper who trained in Camberwell and at the Royal College of Art. Hooper lived in this house and was a friend of Peter Saunders. They may well have not been telephone subscribers and certainly were not houseowners. I will be seeing John over Christmas and see if I can jog his memory.

Osmund Bullock,

That's all very helpful, Martin. From your initial post I'd (mis)understood that Hooper was out of the equation altogether. When I get a moment I will check for where he might have lived in both telephone and electoral registers (they may be online also). Might an image of your sister's picture be possible, I wonder? That could be helpful, too.

Martin Hopkinson,

Not my sister - but sister in law. I doubt if the painting has been photographed. Electoral registers would be a better bet. The artists in this circle would have very little income

Osmund Bullock,

Sorry, Martin - written carelessly and in haste.

Osmund Bullock,

The electoral registers for London & nearby (on Ancestry) go up to 1965, but nothing obvious presents itself for either man. John Hooper's middle initial(s), if any, would help enormously - or failing that, where he was born and/or his approx DOB in 1939, which may enable me to pin an initial down. (There are at least 14 possible 'John Hooper' births registered in England & Wales that year.)

Martin Hopkinson,

I will enquire. He spent quite a bit of his youth in the Middle East as his father worked in an oil company. He is the sort of man too who might have avoided electoral registration - he had a tough childhood

Osmund Bullock,

Ah, well: that closes that line down, I fear. Thanks anyway.

Malcolm Fowles,

Apologies for going back to the detail of the houses, but I am more convinced of Harefield Road now. It's the chimneys: raised on a stack from which a buttress runs down to gutter level; also decorative detail under the stack rim. You can see the former on the foreground house, and though its rim is out of picture you can see the latter on the background stacks.

Osmund, by "semi-detached rear extension" I mean that two houses share one half each of a wide extension, unlike the thin end-terrace extension we see here, which is relatively rare and therefore narrows down the candidates.

I have some confidence in this subject-led approach, having participated in a very successful Art Detective investigation which moved a lighthouse from Eddystone to Brittany and an artist from Stanfield to Jean-Louis Petit! Most of us thought the structure was fanciful; but no, behold the photographic evidence.

Take a walk down Harefield Road in Google Street Map and behold the chimneys.

Osmund Bullock,

Malcolm, there's nothing wrong with a subject-led approach where the subject is one of a relatively small group, and is of an exceptionally distinctive and unusual appearance. How many lighthouses were there in Western Europe in the C19th - a few hundred, maybe even a thousand? How many C19th houses are there in London (let alone other UK cities) - a million, two million? I've no idea, but it's a massive group to search for the right one in, without some clue as to where to concentrate. Yes, we have a decent hypothesis for looking at Brockley (but unsupported by any real evidence so far), and there is clearly nothing wrong with doing so.

Thank you for your suggestion, but I have already looked in great detail and at great length at all the houses in Harefield Road on Google Street View (which pretty much only shows the fronts), and on Google Earth, both with and without the new Voyager facility (which essentially guesses the appearance of buildings at near-ground level from computer analysis of slightly oblique satellite images). I cannot see anything that resembles this house - but it is entirely possible that I have missed one (or I'm mistaken in my analysis). Could you perhaps find one or a group that you think might fit, then screen-grab the image(s) and post here? Andrew showed us one such image (from 'Voyager'), but for the precise architectural (and other) reasons I gave in an earlier post, I believe it is not similar enough to be possible.

Martin Hopkinson,

John Hooper lived in Wickham Road, close to Harefield Road and Tresillian Crescent close to Hilly Fields

Martin Hopkinson,

John says that it is probably by a Camberwell trained artist ,but not his or Peter Saunders'. He thinks that it could date c. 1958-62

Andrew Chamberlain,

The attached Google voyager image is of the rear of houses on Fiveways Road, Camberwell. If this is the correct group of houses then the vantage point for the painting would presumably have been one of the flats in Iveagh House. There are some differences in dormers and chimneys, which could have occurred since the scene was painted.

According to information on Edith's Streets, Iveagh House was built as a block of bed sitters in 1954 to provide accommodation for working women. So it is possible that the artist either resided in Iveagh House or knew one of the residents.
http://edithsstreets.blogspot.co.uk/2010_06_01_archive.html

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Fiveways Road, Camberwell, might be possible but not the particular set of houses in the Google Earth photograph. The Kirklees picture certainly shows a rear extension with a hipped roof rather than the more usual gable end. In the painting, however, the gutter of the extension roof is at the same level as the gutter of the main roof of the house, whereas the set of houses in Fiveways Road has extension gutters at a lower level than the main gutters. The painting seems to show a house of two principal storeys probably over a basement, the photograph showing houses of three principal storeys probably over a basement.

To reinforce Osmund's point some way above, identifying this particular house is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. There is also the real possibility that it might have been demolished, as the painting would seem to date from a period just before Victorian houses of this kind started to become appreciated and valued in the way they are now.

Martin Hopkinson,

The artist is likely to have been quite close to Hooper, who has remarked that the painting of the left hand side of the garden is like his pictures of this period

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