T03663 View of Harbour - Folkestone c. 1920
Watercolour and pencil on wove cartridge paper 19 1/4 × 29 1/8 (489 × 740)
Watermark J & J.H. Kent
Bequeathed by the artist 1983
This large watercolour has recently been identified as a view of Folkestone harbour. On the left is the harbour wall known as East Head and the headland beyond it is Copt Point. On the right is the end of South Quay. Vivian Pitchforth painted from a point just off the Fish-market, behind the slipway.
The painting can be dated to between 1908 and 1921 from the fishing boat The Bonny Margaret FE67 which was in service between those years, but it seems probable that it was done in the early twenties, after Pitchforth served in the First World War and when he returned to Leeds School of Art to continue his interrupted studies (1913–15, 1918–22). FE64 has been identified as the Britannia built in 1895 and the large vessel in the distance is a frozen meat and passenger ship bound for Fray Bentos in Argentina or for Australia.
‘View of a Harbour’ is an early example of Vivian Pitchforth's use of watercolour which was generally a prelude to oil painting until the late thirties when he abandoned oils, took up watercolour as his medium and the British coastline, estuaries and rivers in different weather conditions as his subject matter. This was an interest which evolved from unlikely beginnings as Pitchforth explained in a handwritten, unpublished manuscript in the Tate Gallery archive, written towards the end of his life, for unknown placement. He described how he moved from Cézannesque studies of mountains and being a follower of the Impressionists towards his new medium and subject matter.
My friend (Eric C) Gregory (Founder of the Gregory Arts Fellowships at Leeds University) bought a boat and invited me to join him round the Medway estuaries and creeks. I was bored to tears the first week... nothing but water and sky. However you can't stop a chap working so I got going and really enjoyed this sort of pansey (sic) art, but was secretly ashamed after being ‘with it’ with the then revolutionary Impressionists.
The compiler is indebted to Mr R. Mansfield of E.T.W. Dennis, publishers of Olsen's Fisherman's Nautical Almanack for identifying the harbour and dating and identifying the boats.
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986