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Spring Morning: Haverstock Hill

Sir George Clausen
1881

This picture is not only the most important painting in the Thomas Aitken Bequest , but also the most popular paintings in Bury’s whole collection. The artist, Sir George Clausen [knighted in 1927] became one of the foremost British painters of landscape and of peasant life at the end of the nineteenth century. This is a good example of his early work. 

Spring Morning: Haverstock Hill shows the influence of the French Impressionists with whom Clausen shared the view that light is the real subject of landscape art.

Even though it was painted quite early in the artist’s career, it shows many of the themes that he subsequently developed in his work.

One of the most striking things about the picture is the way it contrasts both rich and poor, giving a hint of where the artist’s true interests lay. Clausen’s pictures of working people, truthfully showing the harsh realities of rural life, later established his high reputation.

In this painting the modern city and its culture of consumerism and fashion is represented by the mother and child, whilst the countryside, with its cycle of labour and annual harvest, is suggested by the roadmenders and the flowerseller. The strong narrative element of the beautiful, wealthy widow, still in deep mourning, has been subordinated to the artist’s close observation of social type. Appropriately, there is hope for the future in this splendidly observed urban landscape; the trees now in bud will come into leaf; the roadmenders will finish mending the road and life, in short, will go on.