The Paintings of Ivor John Powell

The vision of a border Welshman

St. Mary

39. St. Mary's Church, Mucklestone

30.5 x 40.5cm. Canvas with home-made frame

NLW(PG 5880)

Ivor became familiar with this church during his family visits to nearby Loggerheads, after 1973. Its place in history is secured by the tale that Queen Margaret of Anjou viewed the Battle of Blore Heath, of 1459, from the top of its tower. It is said that when she saw her Lancastrian army routed by the Yorkists, she ordered the local blacksmith to put her horse's shoes back to front to mislead the pursuing Yorkists as she fled. Though this story of shoe-reversing has been told to embellish many other escapes, it was taken seriously enough by parishioners for an anvil, even the anvil, to be displayed in the churchyard. This unusual feature Ivor took care to include in his composition. This painting, especially, shows how well his visual memory served him. Without a photograph to help him, he remembered the relationship between the prominent cross and the anvil, and the appearance of the large aisle on the north side is accurately shown as giving the building something of the appearance of a double-naved church. He even noted the distinctive steps on the top of the perimeter wall to cope with the sloping ground. At the same time, he allowed himself a good deal of freedom in his treatment of the setting. More spacious than is actually the case, his churchyard enabled him to work freely with tones and forms to make it an ideal place to sit at ease and reflect. This convincing view of the church shows well how the narrative painter's design strategy is so fitted to his task. Such a view is, in fact, unattainable because of the lie of the land and the surrounding trees and buildings. If he had been a painter of only what could be seen, Ivor would have had to be satisfied with a building partially hidden by obstructions. What he aimed to do, instead, was to work from what he knew about the building.

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