Leonard Russell SQUIRREL (1893-1979) – Sunny Hill, etching
Leonard Russell Squirrell (England, 1893-1979) RE, RWS
‘Sunny Hill’ ,. 1920
Norwich School, etching
(image); 13″ high x 17 1/8″ wide
(framed) 20 3/4″ high x 23 3/4″ wide
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SUMMARY: An original etching titled, ‘Sunny Hill’ by celebrated Suffolk artist, and “the last of the Norwich School”, Leonard R Squirrell (1893-1979) Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours (RWS), Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (RE), circa 1920. A parallel etching can be found in the Colchester and Ipswich Museums, Christchurch Mansion Collection, care of the artists Estate (IPSMG: R.1924-30).
MEDIUM: drypoint etching on paper laid on card; framed
DIMENSIONS: 13” high x 17 ⅛” wide (Image) / 13 ¾” high x 17 ½” wide (sight) / 20 ¾” high x 23 ¾” wide (Framed)
MARKINGS: signed in pencil lower right margin, “Leonard R Squirrell”
DESCRIPTION: On a treed hill under sunny skies a person quietly reads under the shade of a large tree, and an adult plays with two children by the trees on the opposite side of a pathway; in the distance can be seen a small outbuilding in the shade and the rolling countryside beyond the hill on the right.
NOTES: “The work remains so fresh. They have a bright vibrant quality about them. The work is a window onto the past. You get a real sense of what Suffolk was like between the 20s and the 70s. I am particularly fond of his trees. His trees and his skies are absolutely wonderful. I love the fact he gets so much movement in there. You can almost see them moving in the breeze.” ~ Josephine Walpole, Artist of East Anglia – Leonard Squirrel 1893-1979. Antique Collector’s Club.
The Norwich School was founded in 1803 as “an enquiry into the rise, progress and present state of painting, architecture, and sculpture, with a view to point out the best methods of study to attain the greater perfection in these arts.” An exploration into which was clearly taken on and achieved by Leonard Squirrel landing him a place alongside names such as “Crome, Cotman, Thirtle, Middleton and the Stannards.” It is through and through British from the 18th Century to the Contemporary sensibilities of the 70s.
CONDITION: Very Good Condition – framed, glazed, and ready for display. For accuracy only; there are some acid burn in the margins but the early math and some faint boxing; the creme tone paper has been laid on part during early framing job by Haynes circa 1930 to 60, as was common during the period.
BIOGRAPHY: Leonard Russell Squirrell (1893-1979) The man who painted 20th century Ipswich. A Blue Plaque has been installed at the house where he was born, 82 Spring Road. He worked abroad and in counties of England far and wide but spent most of his long life in and around the Borough of Ipswich. He grew up living in the house in Spring Road with his elder brother, Sydney, his father and a housekeeper, Mrs Stringer. His mother had died of tuberculosis at the early age of 38 when Leonard was eight or nine years old. He had an enjoyable and energetic childhood and it soon became clear that he had great talent for the art of drawing. This is a talent that has become an undervalued skill in the fine art area these days. In 1908 he began his training at the Ipswich School of Art under the watchful tutelage of George Rushton, a fine artist himself, having exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1897 to 1948.
In 1913, one of his water-colours was shown at the Royal Academy exhibition and in 1915 won the British Institution scholarship in engraving and his work hung at the Royal Academy for forty-seven consecutive years from 1913. In 1918 he returned to Ipswich Art School and in 1920, on the recommendation of Rushton, entered the Slade School of Fine Art in London under Professor Henry Tonks (1862-1937) and Sir Philip Wilson Steer [q.v.]. On leaving Slade he travelled to Italy and France producing etchings related to the landscape and received gold medals at the International Print Makers Exhibitions in Los Angeles in 1925 and 1930, and silver in 1923. Briefly a member and exhibitor at Norfolk & Norwich Art Club in 1932 but was a member of the Ipswich Art Club from 1914 until his death.
His draughtsmanship and skill with a multiplicity of media did all the talking for him and he did eventually teach etching at the Ipswich Art School. He was extremely skilled as an etcher which is a real test of drawing skills and he produced the most exquisite aquatints, mezzotints and dry-points during his lifetime. In 1923 and 1925 he was awarded Silver Medals at the International Exhibition in Los Angeles for his mezzotints, ‘The High Mill, Needham Market’ and ‘Notre Dame, Paris’ respectively.
Leonard was a very prolific artist and produced watercolours for a number of commercial companies such as Rolls Royce. For twenty years he produced fine watercolour drawings for William Brown (Ipswich) to illustrate their company calendars and did similar jobs for Pauls and Ladbrokes. My first experience of seeing Leonard Squirrell paintings was as carriage prints on the former Great Eastern Railway trains of the 50s. He also produced paintings for railway posters which are much sought after by enthusiasts. Painters are driven to work and never really retire. At the age of 84 he produced a painting for Compair Industrial for their prestigious calendar and a series of limited edition prints.
Leonard was also a loving family man. He married his wife Hilda in 1923 and their first house was at 67 Foxhall Road. Later he needed more space and built a house and studio in Crabbe Street. In the meantime they had two children, Martin and Annette. Both of them were infected with what Hilda described as “the family disease” of painting and drawing.
Represented in many collections, home and abroad. Transferred from the RI to the RWS during his career. Published ‘Landscape Painting in Pastel’ 1938, and ‘Practice in Watercolour’ 1950. Lived near Ipswich and was founder member of the Ipswich Art Club. His son, Martin, was also a painter (1926-50). There are several fine books on Squirrell by Josephine Walpole. On the council of the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours and the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers and also exhibited at the Abbey Gallery; Connell & Sons Gallery; Fine Art Society; Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; Manchester City Art Gallery; New English Art Club; Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers; Royal Hibernian Academy; Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colour and the Royal Scottish Academy. Leonard Squirrell died in 1979 at his daughter’s home in Uttoxeter.
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