English Country Scene

Douglas MacDiarmid (New Zealander, b.1922, d.2020), Artist 1959 © All rights reserved See full details

Object Detail

Douglas MacDiarmid loves landscapes. He has always painted them, as fascinated by natural surroundings as he is by the human form. Various places were recorded in passing during his extensive travels, but others have been revisited many times throughout his painting career, as favourite friends.

Like his other work, there is no singular landscape style but a myriad of approaches depending on the scene and the mood it evokes…sometimes literal, or semi abstract and others becoming more abstract with each iteration, stripping back detail as he burrows down to find the elusive essence of the vision in mind. Some are strongly lyrical or geographical portraits, while others appear as composites of places he has been.

Even when landscapes have been deeply unfashionable, Douglas has chosen to continue to paint the land as it strikes him because he has never been interested in being ‘in vogue’. Throughout his painting career, he made a point of making every fourth or fifth painting an abstract subject “to keep the vision pure”.

This cheerful scene is anywhere and everywhere English that the viewer wants it to be – an exploration of light and colour. According to Douglas: “All that matters is that a painting speaks to the person looking at it. What it gives them is what is true.”

In 1959, Douglas and his partner Jacqueline were going through a rough patch of poor health, and he damaged his spine skiing around that time. They were not travelling as usual, seeking out picturesque corners where they could both sketch; largely confined to his home studio in Paris, Douglas was drawing inspiration from his imagination and multitudes of notes and sketches taken when he was more mobile. ”A good note lasts indefinitely and can be used in a variety of interpretations,” he has often said.

Anna Cahill, March 2020
English Country Scene
Production date
oil on canvas
Image: 450 x 505 mm
Frame: 485 x 635 x 44 mm
Credit line
Collection of The Dowse Art Museum, gifted by Mrs Stanley Oliver 1974
Accession number