This stunning painting most likely depicts the artist’s wife, Agnes Beryl Dodd, and his daughter, Barbara, with the family dog. The mother staring into the distance at the boats on the water, perhaps to depict a fisherman’s wife waiting for her husband to return. The child and dog sit idly, the girl picking a flower. If this is his family it would date the painting to around 1917 – this is a period when he was painting in a similar style to George Clausen and Henry Herbert La Thangue.
Most likely painted en plein air, Fred Hall captures the summer haze across the stretch of the beach and the heat of the day beautifully. In his landscape and pastoral paintings of the 1890’s onwards, Hall showed an understanding of Impressionism in his use of warm, atmospheric colour and the relationship of figure to setting. Unlike so many of his fellow Newlyn artists, Hall’s art continued to develop and the hazy glimpses of rural life are amongst the finest of English Impressionist painting.
The below extract is by Suzanne Lodge, Fred Hall (1860-1948), Oil Paintings of the Countryside, Exhibition catalogue at the Fry Gallery, London April – May 1975
‘Steady unpretentiousness characterizes his art. In painting technique, he was not ruled by academic niceties of brushwork: when it suited him, he painted with amazing fluency, producing surfaces of great beauty. In a different mood, he could maltreat the oil colours, deliberately squashing impastoed areas, thinning the medium drastically, or even improving the painted surface with a greasy crayon. He was somewhat ahead of his time in adding to the traditional medium, and forcing it to serve his own ends: this also represents a break with his artistic background.’
Frederick Hall was born in Yorkshire in 1860. He studied at the Lincoln School of Art 1879-1881, before moving on to study under Michel Marie Charles Verlat (1824-1890) at Antwerp Academy., it was at Antwerp that he befriended Frank Bramley and William Longsdail and this was the catalyst that led him to become a member of the Newlyn School from 1883, where he practised ‘plein-air’ painting with Stanhope Forbes, Bramley and others such artists.
Fred Hall had established a Newlyn studio by 1885 following a visit there the previous year. The number of former associates he found working there would have encouraged him. It could be said that the Newlyn School was founded in Antwerp in the early 1880’s as the artists who formed the backbone of the group had formed friendships during their time in the Academy. Hall studied there under Verlat in 1882 and 1883 and developed a friendship with Norman Garstin. He shared lodgings with Walter Osborne. Fellow students at the Academy were Nathaniel Hill and Joseph Malachy Kavanagh.
The Academy had a profound effect on all who studied there. Charles Verlat, Professor of Painting built on the reputation already established over the preceding decades as a centre for history and genre painting. Although the father of English naturalist painting, George Clausen, spent only a brief period there, it had a lifelong effect on his style although his main influence, in common with those at Newlyn, emanated from the great French naturalist, Jules Bastien Lepage. The Newlyn painters followed Lepage’s principles of painting in the open air and living amongst those who were the subject matter. Although he was looked upon as a figurehead, they were not prepared to portray the reality of rural life in the harsh manner of the master.
During the 1890s he spent less time in Newlyn, painting instead around Porlock on the Somerset coast. There he painted subjects that were more overtly social realist in content, with titles like ‘Adversity’. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, the New English Art Club, the Fine Art Society, the Paris Salon, where he won a gold medal and Venice.
Hall later developed a keen interest in cartoons and caricatures and began to draw for ‘The Graphic’, ‘Black and White’ and ‘The Sketch’, establishing friendships with other notable illustrators.
In 1891, a 31 year old widower, living at Madron, Penzance and he married again in 1898, 22 year old Agnes Beryl Dodd (30 July 1876-1940), and they went to live at The Willows, Westcott Street, Dorking, Surrey but by the time that their daughter, Barbara Beryl, was born on 17 October 1908 they were living at 7 St Paul’s Studio, Colet Gardens, London and later settled in Speen, near Newbury in Berkshire.
Birkenhead: Williamson Art Gallery, Birmingham City Art Gallery, Blackpool: Grundy Art Gallery, Bradford: Cartwright Hall, Bristol City Art Gallery, Dublin: Hugh Lane Gallery of Modern Art, Hull: Ferens Art Gallery, Kettering: Alfred East Art Gallery, Leeds City Art Gallery, Lincoln, Usher Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Laing Art Gallery, Northampton Central Museum, Penzance Art Gallery, Southampton City Art Gallery, Sunderland Museum and Art Gallery, Truro: Royal Cornish Museum, Wakefield City Art Gallery, Warrington Museum and Art Gallery