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Postcards and paintings of Edwardian Worthing – landscape artist AR Quinton’s Sussex

PUBLISHED: 11:32 22 October 2013 | UPDATED: 11:32 22 October 2013

East Beach, Worthing - A

East Beach, Worthing - A

Archant

While going though his postcard collection for his new book about Edwardian Worthing, Antony Edmonds made an interesting discovery about a famous landscape artist, who produced scores of paintings of Sussex during the reign of George V

The paintings of rural England by A.R. Quinton (1853–1934) were very popular during the artist’s lifetime – and indeed for many years after his death – but have now gone out of fashion. He was a considerable artist, and 20 of his paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1879 and 1919.

Quinton is most famous for his long association with the postcard firm of J. Salmon, which began in about 1911. During the course of the next quarter of a century, Quinton created well over 2,000 “painting-postcards” for Salmon.

Until now it has always been supposed that Quinton travelled all over Britain to set up his easel in the locations he painted.

However, when I was going through my postcard albums while making the selection for my book, Worthing: The Postcard Collection, I noticed something that contradicted this assumption.

In no fewer than seven cases, I had a painted Quinton card and a Salmon photographic card that were of an identical scene, viewed from exactly the same perspective.

The conclusion was inescapable. Quinton did not, after all, travel round Britain painting the views that Salmon published as postcards. Rather, the firm provided him with photographs that had been taken for use on photographic postcards, and Quinton then painted his versions in his studio in East Finchley.

This discovery allows us to compare some of Quinton’s paintings with the photographs on which they were based, and see how the eye of a talented artist was able to make a strikingly attractive composition out of a routine photographic view.

The photograph of the bandstand on Worthing seafront suffers from too much empty space in the foreground, so Quinton has ‘moved himself forward’. He has retained most of the motor vehicles, and created an extra car to fill some vacant space on the right, near where the front garden has gained a circular bed of bright red flowers.

The people on the promenade have been thinned out, and a sailing-boat and rowing-boat have been added to the left of the picture.

It is clear from Quinton’s version of the Broadway that Salmon provided him with a photograph that included more of the scene than the cropped version published as a photographic postcard.

The most obvious change Quinton has made is to dispense with the large lamp-post. A characteristic Quinton motor-car is added to the foreground, and a rather improbable horse and cart to the background. He has no use for any of the people that appear in the original photograph, all the figures in his painting being of his own invention.

Quinton’s version of the view of Worthing’s east beach is unusually faithful to the original photograph. The boats on the sand are almost identical, although an extra rowing-boat has been added to the right foreground, and a steam-ship to the horizon.

Over the page is a selection of Quinton’s atmospheric views of other locations in West and East Sussex over three-quarters of a century ago.

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