Stoke Ash, Evening
circa 1950s, oil on wooden panel 16" X 12"
Jean Royle made this landscape painting of the harvest field near her home in Stoke Ash, Suffolk in September 1957. This oil study captures the tranquillity of the evening countryside and is typical of the English landscape in the mid 20th century. The moon, just past full, is perfectly placed in the composition to balance the expanse of cloudless sky. The setting sun provides the warm light in the sky and on the stubble and patches of bare earth. The heavy greens of the trees capture the typical late summer atmosphere, and the stillness of the scene is further expressed by the underlying composition in which there are no jarring features.
This painting is significant in the chronology of Jean Royle’s painting history because it is the first work she had the time to engage with since living in Hitcham in the 1940s. By the time she had moved to Stoke Ash in 1956 she had three children, consequently she rarely found time to paint and only achieved this either when the children were at school, or sometimes during early evenings when her husband was home from work.
In this study she has chosen a slightly elevated viewpoint: we are gazing out towards the water meadows and willows where the colour of a ploughed field, just visible on the extreme left, is repeated intermittently, carrying the eye across the breadth of the scene. This horizontal emphasis is counterbalanced by the lines of stubble, their perspective leading us into the tranquillity of the landscape. We want to venture there – it is enticing us!
This painting is on a piece of wooden board – plywood – which was all she had to paint on at the time. She had little regard for her abilities as a painter. When the work was completed she pushed two drawing pins through the board at the back in order to put a piece of string on it to hang it up, and on a later occasion did the same again but in a different position! The marks of the pins can still be seen if you look closely at that evening sky on either side of the moon. And although the moon is present in sketches in her sketchbook and in some of her card designs, notably ‘Tree and Moon’ and ‘Owl and Moon’, it is present in only this one oil painting.