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Issue 247
March/April 2008
Long Live Biodiversity!


An Innocent Eye

issue cover 247

Cover: Blue button jellyfish. Photograph: David Liittschwager/ National Geographic

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An Innocent Eye

Mary Newcomb Christopher Andreae Lund Humphries, UK, 2006 £45.00

THERE ARE CERTAIN artists who give us a new way of seeing. Mary Newcomb is one of these. I don’t consider her to be in the front rank of contemporary painters but she sees the countryside in a way that is fresh, inimitable and unpretentiously original. She paints familiar scenes – a woman taking her dog for a walk, a pond in winter, a cockerel – and does so so that we see these things in a new way, but one which is entirely natural. “What she paints”, writes Christopher Andreae, “is intimately rooted in her own daily life.”

Born in 1922, Newcomb lives in Norfolk, and the subject matter of her untutored art is that which lies around her. It is pastoral, deeply poetic, gentle and often humorous. Like Ben Hartley, she observes the world with a wry delight in the quiet comedy of human life but her laughter is always good-

humoured, always benign, never viscous. Birds and insects, animals and humans are continually moving through her paintings, as are the words which play a telling part in her vision. Here are some of her titles: Boat in a low setting sun – casting its shadow over the reeds as it passes; Herons hiding in the bushes; Stationary swans float slowly backwards as the tide comes in and Ewes watching shooting stars.

This fully illustrated monograph introduces Newcomb’s universe through 150 full-colour reproductions. Her paintings and drawings are set alongside extracts from her diary and an illuminating text by Andreae.

John Lane is Art Editor of Resurgence.