Edward Seago (Norwich 1910 - London 1974)

The Marsh Track; Winter - Norfolk

signed ‘Edward Seago’ (lower left)
oil on board
50.8 x 76.2 cm (20 x 30 in)

Provenance: with The Pieter Wenning Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa;
with Marlborough Fine Art, London.

This moody evocation of the Norfolk landscape in winter captures Edward Seago in his element. The impressionistic feel and tonality of the work are striking; it is the familiarity of the scene, however, that is most captivating. Seago grew up in Norfolk and spent most of his working life there, continually using his native countryside as inspiration for his paintings. His affection for the county is revealed in the intimacy and informality of The Marsh Track; Winter - Norfolk.

An overcast sky, hastily conveyed with a minimum of paint through which brush strokes are clearly evident, hangs oppressively over the stark landscape. To the right and left are fields covered in crisp white snow and undisturbed by passers-by. A muddy track, its texture conveyed by a liberal application of blotches and squiggles of grey, blue, black and brown pigment, leads the eye towards the lower centre of the composition, where a thatched barn and a dense grouping of trees form a horizontal line across the panel.

Despite his restricted colour palette, Seago’s depiction of contrasting surfaces, from the glossy flatness of the river to the roughness of the grasses growing along its bank, delineated by sharp vertical scratches, brings variation and interest to the representation.

Seago’s The Haystack, in the collection of Norwich Castle, portrays a similarly flat expansive landscape, although blue skies and hints of green foliage indicate the change of season. Again, the view down a country track directs the eye towards a large haystack interrupting the continuity of the low horizon, and next to it, a gnarled tree. The looseness and freedom of Seago’s impressionist style, like in The Marsh Track; Winter - Norfolk is at its most apparent.

Seago was ill for much of his childhood and as a result, he spent many hours sketching the surrounding countryside from his bedroom window. These formative years made him determined to pursue a career as an artist, against his parent’s wishes.

At the outbreak of World War II, Seago joined the Royal Engineers, and was immediately invited by Field Marshal Alexander to record the Italian campaign. He met Churchill, Macmillan and George VI, among other prominent figures, all of whom later became his patrons. His war paintings, exhibited at Colnaghi’s in 1945, were a huge success and attracted hoards of viewers. After the war, Seago turned his concentration from portrait to landscape painting. In the following years he painted largely from life, until 1962, when, on one of his many trips abroad, he began making sketches with colour annotations, which he later worked up in the studio. This significant change in method was brought about by a desire not to be viewed merely as a topographical painter. As The Marsh Track; Winter - Norfolk shows, Seago achieved much more than an accurate likeness of his subject; he imbued the landscape with atmosphere and emotional force.