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16 October 2015
It is Mary Elwell’s interiors for which she will be remembered (she also painted some perfectly okay landscapes which can be seen on the PCF/BBC site here). The interiors do not tell a story in the same way as Fred Ewell’s – in a sense they are more static – but the detail and the clear-eyed vision is extraordinary: a novel or a short story is unnecessary to tell us about this man’s life, we know so much about him just from this one glorious painting. Interior Study is at the Ferens in Hull and therefore cannot be seen at the moment but this is what the Hull website says: ‘The setting of this painting has recently been identified as No 14. Newbegin, a residence in the heart of Beverley. The house dates from the 17th century and at the time of this painting, in 1932, was divided into 2 properties, nos. 14 & 16. The house is now simply known as Newbegin House and is tantalizingly out of view for the casual passer by. The date of the house is revealed by the deeply moulded panelling which predates the 1830s. It is a ground floor room actually lit by three tall windows, only one is visible in this painting. The sitter is most probably the resident, a Reverend Wigfall, the perpetual curate at Beverley Minster and St John’s Chapel, Lairgate, which is now know as the Memorial Hall. An elaborately carved African hardwood bookcase is lined with an impressive array of books and in front of this is what appears to be a design folder. To the right are a cello case and a music stand with sheet music resting upon it. The stuffed birds in cases on top of the bookcase also suggest that Wigfall, or a previous occupant, was perhaps an ornithologist.’
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