Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, from all of us in the Eton College Collections.
Through tall, bare trees small figures are silhouetted against the white glow of fresh snow. Their long, black coats betray them as Eton boys. They are absorbed in the excitement of a snowball fight, running and bending over. Beyond are the distinctive shapes of Eton’s buildings with their tall chimneys. To the right is a long, plain wall; the site of the Eton Wall Game.
Worth, Leslie, College Field under Snow, 1958, FDA-D.566-2010
Artist Leslie Worth (1923–2009) studied at Plymouth and Bideford schools of art, before becoming a student at the Royal College of Art. After briefly working as a graphic designer, he taught at Epsom School of Art in Surrey, later becoming Head of Fine Art. Worth was also a practising artist. In 1958, in his mid-30s, he was one of several artists, including Robin Darwin (1910–74) and Rupert Shephard (1909–92), commissioned by Eton College, using funds from the Farrer Trust, to paint views of the landscapes and buildings in and around Eton. The trust was the bequest of Old Etonian Gaspard Farrer (1860–1946). The bequest was mainly used to fund a building programme, including the Farrer theatre and two new boarding houses, one of which was also named after Farrer.
Worth produced a series of 12 works for Eton. Two record the construction of Farrer House. Views of the newly built swimming pool and Windsor Castle are also included. Others show the College from a variety of vantage points. Worth’s work of the late 1940s and early ‘50s had concentrated on urban scenes and figure studies, in watercolour and oil. By the time of the Eton commission, his focus had shifted to the suburban landscape views and coastal scenes in watercolour for which he is best known. The works generally include small figures and the artist was particularly interested in recording the effects of weather. Over the following decades Worth made a series of London cityscapes and completed several commissioned murals. Drawings in sketchbooks, filled during overseas travels, inspired larger watercolours of locations in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. He also produced still lifes, experimental imaginative landscapes and a series of collages or low relief assemblages of found objects.
More than 60 years after the Eton commission, a very different landscape by Worth, showing the beach at Charmouth in west Dorset, was added to the Eton Collections, as part of the bequest of former Eton master Nigel Jaques (1935–2020). The area around Lyme Regis, including Charmouth, was a favourite haunt of the artist and the subject of many of his watercolours. Painted in 1982, the coastal scene had been presented to Jaques in Michaelmas the following year, as an affectionate gift from boys who had recently left the college. This small coastal scene contrasts with Worth’s larger and bolder views Eton and its environs, including his timeless image of Eton in the snow.
By Philippa Martin, Keeper of Fine and Decorative Art