In 1912, Australian-born Derwent Lees was painting with James Dickson Innes in Collioure, France. Both men were to die tragically young-Innes as a twenty-seven year old from consumption in 1914 and Lees as a burnt-out forty-five year old with psychiatric problems in 1931. The painting trip to the picturesque town of Collioure on the mediterranean French coast, close to the Spanish border, threw up wonderful work from both young men.
In Harbour Scene, the sea sparkles in a way beloved of watercolourists, but here done in oils. Coarse washes and spots of another colour give life and sparkle to the sea washing the shore of an un-English fishing port. In the background the Pyrenees provide an exotic backdrop, surrounding the bright colours of the town with a kind of dusty, olive permanence.
And the pendant painting, Landscape, is possibly the reverse side of the picture. In other words, the view from the other side of the round hill that figures so prominently in the view of the harbour. Gentle fields, colour in the heat and the shadows, and nature captured with the brilliance of stained glass.
The Yellow Skirt comes from a slightly later painting trip, this time with Augustus John in 1914. John's picture of the same subject is in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. A willowy woman languishes against an ambiguous background of stones and earth. Is she Virginia Woolf's heroine on her way 'To the Lighthouse'? No matter, she palely loiters while avoiding the painter's gaze. A mysterious painting from this slightly-known Australian-British artist.