Edward Middleditch – Crowd, Earls Court (1953)

The English artist, Edward Middleditch (1923–1987), was a painter, draughtsman and printmaker and one-time Keeper of the Royal Academy. Despite initially being a conscientious objector at the outbreak of World War II, he did eventually see active service in France and Germany with the Middlesex Regiment; he was wounded and also received the Military Cross

crowd
Crowd, Earls Court, 1953 (oil on board)

Middleditch took his motifs from the natural world: grasses, water, feathers, opening petals, reflections, and in particular he sought to capture the way observed patterns in water currents and light gradually shift.

This preoccupation can be seen marvellously in his canvas Crowd, Earls Court (oil on board, circa 1953). In this study, what captures the eye initially are the swirling patterns of light on the pavement in the foreground. The human subject, relegated to the second plane, is a tightly packed crowd that appears to be trying to flee from the canvas. Beyond the crowd, to the left, there is a burst of light that emanates from an unseen source behind the wall. The entire energy of the painting travels up from the pavement, up towards the crowd and beyond, as though the crowd is being swept along by the power of the light. The clothes worn by the figures in the crowd, although indistinct, suggest something Biblical, and one wonders whether the explosion of light that appears to be attracting them may not be a Messianic figure.

The subdued use of colour further enhances the power of the draughtsmanship in this composition that I found to be truly mesmerizing. I’m sure that once you have seen this richly suggestive painting for yourselves, at Tate Britain, Earls Court will never look quite the same.

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