unusual travelogue that takes us from the artist's beloved East
Anglia to further afield. The personal sojourn has been compiled
from a collection of beautiful landscape watercolours of every
season accompanied by an informative and witty text. Just as
much a narrative as a picture book.
East Anglia, as a place of cultural history, hasn't the gratuitous
romanticism of the Bronte's Yorkshire or of Hardy's Wessex,
but a darker, objective, more cerebral one. In the early nineteenth
century the poet, George Crabbe, brought something of the clinician's
skill he had been apprenticed to surgeons in Bury St.
Edmunds in taking a history, to create the episodic poem
The Borough, published in 1810. This documents a community's
bigotry and intolerance of an outsider, Peter Grimes, and its
brutal theme remains a powerful indictment that still has a
contemporary relevance. In the twentieth century, Ronald Blythe's
Akenfield chronicled the transition of a rural economy
where the minutiae of village life are vividly set in counterpoint
to the great events of the century; and, in Graham Swift's Waterland,
history itself is almost the subject, an epic narrative that
spans 240 years, with the bleak melancholia of the Fens mirroring
physical topography of East Anglia expresses ambiguity, the
conjunction of water and earth, the one forming the other, with
water the omnivorous sea a dominant and threatening
partner. This weft and warp of sea and land is appropriate as
the local industry of weaving gave the area its early wealth.
the middle of the seventeenth century the patronage of wealthy
East Anglian merchants allowed a seminal group of local artists
to leave their studios and paint outside, directly from nature.
They were greatly influenced by Sudbury born Gainsborough and
the paintings of the Dutch landscape artists whose work they
saw in local collections. Cozens, Crome, Girtin, Constable and
Cotman created a body of work that represented the countryside
with a veracity that had world-wide influence. Their art is
essentially one that is based on observation and their dispassionate
studies of the natural world, especially those by Constable
and Turner, lead directly to Impressionism.
Dodds is the natural heir to those en plein air artists of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For over forty years,
from 1957 to the present, he has contributed drawings and paintings
of East Anglia to the Eastern Daily Press. In recent
years he has extended these local scenes with visits to Cornwall,
and also to Portugal, Majorca, Greece, Turkey and Australia.
Quite apart from its great aesthetic value and beauty his work
is an invaluable chronicle of our time. In this he is a reporter
and certainly any one of his pictures is worth a thousand words.
work first appeared in the early 1950s. He had studied at the
Central School of Art under Bernard Meninsky, John Minton and
Roderic Barrett, where drawing from life was a central part
of the curriculum. This discipline, of careful and accurate
observation, has informed his style ever since.
drawings for The Farmers Weekly were spotted by Cara
Strong of the prestigious Saxon Artists Agency and she invited
him to join her very exclusive roster of artists. Work for the
Radio Times followed. Ralph Usherwood, its editor, was
impressed by Andrew Dodds' farming background and his skill
in drawing rural subjects and commissioned him to make some
drawings for a new radio serial. Although this was not expected
to enjoy a lengthy run it quickly established itself as a favourite
among listeners and Andrew's drawings in Radio Times
contributed to its success over the next ten years. The programme
was The Archers and Dodds used his family as models for
the Archer family and a local farmer, Walter Lord, for his drawing
of Walter Gabriel.
These drawings, and the hundreds
of others that Andrew made for Radio Times, became an inspiration
for a whole generation of art students. Some were fortunate
enough to have tuition during Andrew's years as tutor at St.
Martin's School of Art in London, and then at Suffolk College
School of Art & Design, where he was Deputy Head.
The impact of his black and white
line technique cannot be underestimated. Andrew, and his peers
Leonard Rosoman, Fritz Wegner, and Barry Wilkinson
drew with accuracy and an economy of expression that described
the subject more vividly than any photograph. Their understanding
of form, perspective, texture and the effect of light, accompanied
by an exciting sense of composition, derived from years of studying
great masters like Rembrandt, created a new artistic syntax.
It is rare for an artist who works
solely in black and white to make a successful transition to
working in colour most often the hues are added almost
as an afterthought to a carefully constructed line drawing.
Andrew Dodds achieved the change effortlessly. His watercolours
are amongst the finest examples of the medium, with colour used
brilliantly to indicate perspective, and stand comparison to
any created by the great topographical artists, Turner and Lear
for example, in the eighteenth century.
paintings included in this book evoke the seasons throughout
a year. Although mostly of East Anglian subjects, there are
records of Andrew's visits to countries around the Mediterranean
and also to Australia.
delights in detail, architectural elements are drawn with precision;
the rigging of boats is accurate; the twisted branches, foliage
and textured bark of trees are closely observed to the extent
that an arborist could identify each one; people are included
so naturally that they often recognise themselves when seeing
the printed version. Local meteorological conditions
whether a rainy windswept beach at Aldeburgh (itself painted
during the downpour!), or a sundrenched view of a Mediterranean
harbour are so vivid that one can almost feel the extremes
of cold and heat. A lemon tree, drawn in his daughter's garden
in Greece, has the exuberant quality of Rackham, and a view
of children feeding gulls and ducks on the Oulton Broads has
the immediacy of a Japanese print. Above all Dodds respects
the working tradition of the countryside, the rural and coastal
industries, with a regard for the hands that shaped it.
art is about communicating an individual's vision of the world,
of representing a truth. Based on his lifetime's practice Andrew
Dodds persuades the viewer to see the world through his eyes,
quietly and without distortion, and we are all the better for
Author of Artists of Radio Times
Published by Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Press Ltd 2003
152 full colour illustrations
240mm x 168mm
ISBN 0 9539472 6 2