The Paintings of Ivor John Powell

The vision of a border Welshman

My House by Ivor Powell

21. My House

25.5 x 36cm. Daler board with owner's frame

Private Collection

With its title written by Ivor on the reverse, this view of the back of his own house (at the end of the row, on the left), was made from an intimate knowledge of its subject. Built in the early years of the 20th Century, these houses were typical of residential developments in the South Wales coalfield at that time. Built of red and yellow bricks, they had small bay windows projecting at the fronts and outside toilets and coal houses at the backs. The conservatory, which was added in his time but not built by him, and the interior of which provided the subjects for several of his flower studies, formed a protective covering to the back door and, through an extended glazed roof, to much of the courtyard between the house and the wall to the garden. (The photograph showing him working on a painting was taken under this roof). On the edge of Pontnewydd village, these houses must always have had something of a rural character. His own house originally had a pig sty at the bottom of the garden, which was later converted into a shed. It was an ideal house for him in retirement, and he enjoyed spending the rest of his life there. It was a significant feature of his personality, and of the nature of the community in which he lived, that his version of his house had to include most of the whole row of houses. His unselfish life was conducted on the assumption that he was part of a wider community, which upheld a common culture. His house, therefore, could not be separated, physically or aesthetically, from the others. In his painting, he carefully included the items he had built or made himself - the garage, the garden gate and the coal bunker, built largely with concrete blocks of his own composition, which was strong enough to stop a tank. Though his version of the houses is instantly recognisable, he took considerable liberties with the actual elements of the buildings. Though his colours were essentially accurate, he also imposed his own requirements to achieve the relationships he wanted. This is particularly evident in the choice of the two primaries, blue and yellow, for his conservatory, and where an opportunity is offered - as in the white walls remaining after a neighbour's conservatory had been removed - he made the most of it. He may have seen prints of Vermeer's view of a street in Delft, or of other Dutch studies of buildings, but even if he had not, he shared with those artists the painter's delight in composing something which takes hold of the mundane and transforms it. On the reverse of this painting, perhaps before or even during the process of composition, he drew one of his bulls, of the kind he used to draw to amuse his sons, comically placed on top of a mound or hill. Though hastily executed, the drawing would have had symbolic meaning for him.

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