An Hour in the Studio at Cawthorne
Strolling in the bright May sunshine on a recent afternoon, among the beauties of Cannon Hall, enjoying the exhilarating freshness of the present spring-time we found ourselves in the rustic cottage of Mr. Abel Hold, and were by and by ushered into the Artist's Sanctum- that mysterious chamber, "The Studio'.
To us studios are always queerly suggestive places, with their strange medley of furniture and heterogeneous accumulation of odds and ends.
One might easily fancy they had got into an antiquarian lumber room, or the closet of a theatrical property man; but then you know that here the painter's fancies take shape, you begin to have a feeling of awe, as if you were in a magician's cave, while all the grotesque odds and ends about but await the conjuror's touch to assume new forms and to group themselves into poetic and artistic combinations that would astonish and delight the onlooker
Source: Cawthorne 1770-1990, Barry Jackson.
We hope we break no confidence when we hint of numerous ghosts of pictures, hovering round the apartment. Thus on a wide bench in every conceivable position what had been feathered denizens of the distant moorlands, or adjoining cover, intermingled with broken branches, bits of heather etc. While these are decaying on the board, their shades seem to have taken refuge, and show in dim outline on bits of canvas around the room.
There on a canvas that partly covers the wide boards put up to keep the
light from getting in, in any but an orthodox way, are the shadows of some-
most likely barn yard fowls, that have evidently been waiting long, with
exemplary patience, for those touches to give them life and permanence.
Here in the corner lurks, in dim outline a very handsome dog fox; right behind him, on another canvas, struggles a shadowy pack in full cry after a shadowy reynard, with shadowy huntsman trying hard to come through a shadowy wood.
Nearby is the graphic outline of a very fine boy, having in his arms the ghostly head of a sleeping pointer. here-there everywhere are numerous more or less defined sketches of beasts, birds, mountain, moorland , or woodland scenery, outlines and shadows which quicken imagination and kindle hope, for after all it is from amongst the confused knick-knackery of such promiscuous sketchings that there emerges year after year from the studios of the world those embodiments of pure nature, reflections of sweetness, beauty, simplicity, and tenderness, as well as those illustrations of power and grandeur which when unveiled awakens in the onlooker somewhat of that divine joy which thrills the spirit of the artist as he watches his work pass from the hazy outline of the first rough sketch until he hears it acclaimed a masterpiece.
On and about the easels in the centre of the apartment are a number of pictures, finished or nearly so, bearing unmistakably the stamp of Mr. Hold's handiwork, and showing at the present time he is in a fine vein of inspiration; for although none of them are what we call ambitious pictures, they still shew forth some of the finest characteristics of his pencil.
We most sincerely regret that he has not attempted larger canvasses and
more complicated combinations, for most assuredly, with the finish and power
now displayed in those now before us, he has but to do so to secure both
wealth and fame to an extent his own diffidence has hitherto kept from him.
The mallard drake and duck are elegant with beauty. The feather painting we do not hope to see surpassed by any artist living or dead.
The green head of the drake glistens in the light, and his beautiful form, as he lies stark on the sward, amid most appropriate accessories, makes an admirable specimen of the artist's best manner. Two pairs of single birds have just got their finishing touches. We presume to select two and put them in a proper light to have a better look at them.
We call the one morning and the other evening.
Morning presents a cock grouse proudly treading the heath with a conscious air of beauty and power.- the eye instinct with life, the clear morning air bespeaking a brilliant day. Evening in the other is closing over the landscape in the gloom, while the bird having fallen beneath the sportsman's rifle, has dropped anyhow in the moorland.
On a smallish canvas, just beginning to emerge from a shadowy state is a hare on, as we think, a tender slab, but he calls for no special notice just yet, and all the more so that, close at hand and ready for the frame is one of the very finest- if not the very finest of painted hares that ever took shape under Mr. Hold's brush.
Puss, full sized, has just dropped at the root of a tree. He has ceased to palpitate, and yet we are not even sure of that; but there is no mistake he is yet warm.
Well nourished and muscular, he does credit to the woodland he has ranged, while his clean, clear coat shows beautifully against the deep shade of the trees beyond, and your fngers feel as if they felt the soft warmth of the downy fur, which seems to be trembling in the silvan breeze; and as we pass out to the open air, and away to the other scenes and associations, we linger on the threshold to congratulate Mr. Hold that he still retains all his finish and power, and we fervently breathe the prayer that the hand whose delicate manipulations has produced those wonderful feathered embodiments, and that exquisite fur coat, may long be preserved to contribute to the high art of his native land.