T03664 Wet Windscreen, Ramsgate Harbour after 1971
Watercolour on mouldmade drawing paper 18 3/4 × 24 3/8 (477 × 625)
Watermark ‘Montgolfier St Marcel-les-Annonacy’ and a lion rampant holding a sword. ‘INGRES’ countermark
Inscribed on verso ‘Wet Windscreen/Ramsgate Harbour’
Bequeathed by the artist 1983
‘Wet Windscreen, Ramsgate Harbour’ shows the left arm of the harbour wall with the lighthouse and some boats. The other side of the harbour is obscured by mist. A sketch for this work in a sketchbook owned by the Royal Academy dates the painting after 1971. Since the sketchbook bears a decimal currency price, it can be assumed that it was bought after February 1971.
There are precedents for Pitchforth sketching subjects from vehicles. Two other works of his in the Tate Gallery, N05173 ‘Night Transport’ (1939–40) and T00037 ‘Floods, Port Madoc Valley, North Wales’ 1954, were both subjects seen in the first instance from motor vehicles. The inclusion of the distinct foreground plane of the car windscreen in this painting is a new device which enables the artist to depict the moment when the rain begins to clear. The ‘lovely English climate of all over greys with its mists, rain and subtle nuances’ is the true concern of his later work, and led Pitchforth to devote at least half the space in watercolours such as this to the sky, and the rest often to wide expanses of reflective water.
The artist's brother, Gerald, owns a similar, less finished, version of ‘Wet Windscreen, Ramsgate Harbour’ with additional boats in the foreground. It was Vivian Pitchforth's habit, in later years, to make two versions of his more successful works. There are a number of other watercolours by Pitchforth of Ramsgate Harbour. The Royal Academy owns two undated views, no.119, which depicts a trawler and a fishing boat within the harbour wall and no.277 showing the view from one end of Ramsgate harbour with the lighthouse as the central feature. Pitchforth's Royal Academy Diploma work of 1954, ‘Ramsgate Harbour’, looks back from the harbour to the town, as do two other views of Ramsgate which were exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1950. ‘Wet Windscreen, Ramsgate Harbour’ may be considered as a late study of a subject matter long favoured by Pitchforth.
For his watercolours, Vivian Pitchforth worked in his London studio, or sometimes in hotel bedrooms near to the scene, from ‘notes’ made in front of the motif with indications of colour. The Royal Academy sketch 4 1/2 × 6 (110 × 154) for this work is such a note:
The habit grew so as to be able to extract from nature the effects which last only minutes and also to be able to control subtleties which are difficult on the spot ... I know exactly what I want before I start. The notes I make are rather poor as drawings and marked all over with references to colour value, but allied to memory they are adequate.
All the above quotations are taken from the handwritten, unpublished manuscript in the Tate Gallery archive, written towards the end of Pitchforth's life for unknown placement, already referred to in T03663.
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986