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Taking Down a Hayrick

Thomas Hennell (1903-1945)


Watercolour on reverse of 'Loading the Farm Cart'

Watercolour and pencil

11 ¼ x 19 ¾ inches

'A Century of British Art: 1900-1945', Chris Beetles Gallery, 21 June-17 July 2021, No 165

Thomas Hennell produced this work at West Yoke Farm in Ash-next-Ridley, close to his family home. It is a very similar composition to the watercolour, Taking Down a Rick and Threshing (private collection), which he made there on Sunday 25 August 1935, while on a ‘probationary weekend’ away from Claybury Mental Hospital, Essex. Jessica Kilburn’s comments on that watercolour, in her study of Hennell, may equally apply to the present one:

'Hennell ... confidently painted a scene which is a celebration of work, each figure portrayed busily going about his job. The painting conveys the joy Hennell took in their activity. At West Yoke Farm in August 1935, many men may have been involved in ‘taking down a rick and threshing’, but during the interwar years hundreds of thousands of farmworkers ‘were forced off the land by farmers attempting to reduce costs by cutting back on labour’. Scenes like the one Hennell painted were becoming less prevalent.'
(Jessica Kilburn,
Thomas Hennell: The Land and the Mind, London: Pimpernel Press, 2021, page 122, quoting Jeremy Burchardt, Paradise Lost: Rural Idyll and Social Change since 1800, London: I B Tauris & Co, 2002, page 107)

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