Serving Msunduzi through the Visual Arts
FOTAG Focus Articles
For a number of years the Natal Witness ran articles by FOTAG members. These articles called the FOTAG Focus discussed artworks from the collection on display.
On The Lawn
oil on canvas
Dacres Adams (b. 1864)
by Shirley Gault
I needed to get to know this painting, which is is prominent on the stair well of the Gallery, better and thanks to the FOTAG articles I spent more time with it. It initially drew my attention because of the elongated figure of a woman looking down on her children. She reminds me of the statue of admiral Nelson in Trafalgar Square in London, beholding the ant-like people below from his high column.
We do not know exactly when this was painted, but the painter was probably intent on conveying an English upper middle class life style. The people depicted could be a mother with her three children (two girls and a boy) and their collie dog in the foreground, offset by a nanny and a younger child in the background. The croquet mallet and mother's hand and her shimmering silk afternoon gown are perhaps typical for Adams of that way of life at the time. In contrast to the people the woody vegetation that surrounds them is darkly brooding, glowering and painted with no attention to detail. A smudge of grey English sky lets in a small pool of light at the top of the picture. The lawn too is subservient to the people and the croquet mallet.............All's well with the world: everything is in its place and as it should/ought to be. The painting speaks to me of..............a woman's life prescribed by the conventions of the day.
Yet even then there is space for mystery and the unknown and the contemplative speak to me in the enigmatic quizzical smile on the mother's face. Were her social mores able to hold her from dark thoughts and feelings welling up in her natural self? Perhaps these were as omni-present and brooding as the somber green trees about her and the sparsity of light in that lawned landscape. Did she long to lift that mallet and bash her offspring with it, showing how much she resented having to endure their close proximity for the sitting while nanny floated idly in the back-ground with baby? Did nanny deserve a clubbing as well for stirring the mother's envy........
On the other hand: could this painting be a large Rorschach test onto which - oops! -I'm projecting a lot of my womanly self? Thank you, Mr Adams, across more than a century, for meeting me in this way through your painting and lifting me out of the mire one step further towards CONSCIOUSNESS.
Hopefully our encounter will mean that, in an after-life, you, I and the various subjects described above (dog, trees, lawn included) may play at stick fighting vigorously and creatively with croquet mallets. Imagine how the children will enjoy the crack THWACH of the sticks in combat and the dog putting his teeth into them. This scene will conjure up more for those who care to contemplate it/perhaps paint it/poet it/music it/ drama it/film it or just do nothing about it.......like lazy me!
"When there's life in the pudding, good is the pudding", said DH Lawrence. Great piece of pudding. Dacres Adams, may I have your recipe, please.
The Tatham Art Gallery holds an Art Collection that contains significant British and French artworks dating back to the 18th century. Its South-African art collection is focused on, but not exclusive to, the art of KwaZulu-Natal.
The Tatham Art Gallery hosts a range of Art Exhibitions. These include traveling and researched exhibitions as well as exhibitions initiated by the Gallery and compiled from the collection.
A selection of current and archival articles from the Tatham Art Gallery. These articles provide a historical and contemporary perspective on the Gallery and the visual arts in KwaZulu-Natal.