Artists

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Provenance

Rev and Mrs C.B. Canning, thence by descent to
Sarah Canning
The Hanford School, Blandford, Dorset

Exhibitions

London, South London Art Gallery, William Coldstream, Arts Council of Great Britain, 27 April - 26 May 1962, cat no.39, touring to:
Leeds, University, 9 - 30 June
Bristol, City Art Gallery, 7 July - 28 July
Swansea, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, 4 - 25 August
Southampton, City Art Gallery, 1 - 22 September
Birmingham, City Museum and Art Gallery, 29 September - 20 October


London, Tate Gallery, The Paintings of William Coldstream 1908-1987, 17 October 1990 - 6 January 1991, cat no.31, illus b/w p87 and colour p59, touring to:
Newport, Art Gallery and Museum, 19 January - 9 March
Norwich, Castle Museum, 6 April - 5 May
Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, 10 May - 22 June

Literature

Bruce Laughton, The Euston Road School, Scolar Press, Aldershot 1986, p251-2, illus fig.148 and 149

Bruce Laughton, William Coldstream, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2004, illus colour fig.61, pp.116-7, p139

Description

As an Official War Artist, Coldstream travelled through Northern Italy in 1944, arriving in Florence in May 1945. He settled in the city at the end of this month together with two other war artists, John Aldridge and Edward Bawden. Coldstream made drawings in the Piazza della Signoria and near the Ponte Vecchio straight away - aware that he did not have much time. View Across the Arno at the Ponte Vecchio was to be his principle subject for the three weeks that he stayed there. The Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence which the Germans had not blown up when the city was captured from them in August 1944, although they had created masses of rubble at either end of it. The picture was painted from the empty first floor room of a hotel, which had suffered partial destruction as a result of the German demolitions, looking across the Arno to the main part of the city. The arcaded structure on the right is part of the Vasari Corridor, the covered passage which connected the Pitti Palace on the south bank to the Uffizi Palalce on the north. Coldstream made a first oil sketch of this on a very small canvas with a narrower field of vision, spontaneously recording the main tones and colours - something he had always been able to do but not often allowed himself to indulge in, regrettably. Thereafter he painted on the larger 'Arno picture' for fifteen consecutive days, from 3rd to 17th June. He insisted on this canvas being catalogued as 'unfinished' in his 1962 retrospective exhibition, but there is no evidence that he disliked it. The small measuring marks dotted across the canvas, and key horizontals and verticals, show that he knew exactly where everything was in the picture, and that to finish it would be just a matter of paring down from larger shapes to smaller ones within them. The abstract and colouristic qualities of this painting are very attractive, although that was not the artist's conscious aesthetic intent. For once, a controlling mind was allowed to work in perfect harmony with a lyrical sensibility. An extract from Bruce Laughton's recent monograph, William Coldstream, Yale University Press, 2004, pp.116-7