Blamire YOUNG, Grandfer Cantle. Enlarge 1 /1

Blamire YOUNG

Londesborough, England 1862 – Montrose, Victoria, Australia 1935

  • Australia from 1885
  • England 1893-95
  • Europe, England 1912-23

Grandfer Cantle. c.1919 Place made: Greater London, England
Materials & Technique: drawings, watercolours, painting in watercolour Support: paper

Primary Insc: signed lower right in watercolour, 'B.Y.'. not dated.
Tertiary Insc: Inscribed on backing cardboard now stored with old worksheets: 'Granfer Cantle / (from 'The return of the Native') / Thomas Hardy / Blamire Young'. Customs Dept stamp on same cardboard dated 1924. Label with old worksheets: 'Academy Arts Pty Ltd/730 New South Head Rd, Rose Bay 2029 / Granfer Cantle / (from Thomas Hardy) / number 12557B'.
Dimensions: image 23.4 h x 18.2 w cm sheet 23.4 h x 18.2 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1977
Accession No: NGA 77.180
  • Purchased by the Australian National Gallery, from Brosalco Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1977.

Awash with sensuously graded tones of watercolour, Blamire Young’s ghostly portrait of Grandfer Cantle epitomises the artist’s belief that ‘art is emotional, not precise’. The portrait captures the essence of the serenading ex-soldier who inhabits the murky and desolate environs of Egdon Heath in Thomas Hardy’s novel The return of the native. He claims to be a man of the world, flaunting his worldliness to his fellow heath-bound peasant folk, yet in the senility of old age is destined to die, like them, a mere heath-man. Young’s eerie portrait stands apart from his watercolours of the theatrical world and is one of several works inspired by Hardy’s novels. Grandfer Cantle was painted in 1920 when the artist was living in London, and was included in his exhibition at London’s Fine Art Society in October 1920, as was another work inspired by Hardy’s poem The revisitation. Grandfer Cantle may well have been a poster design following the adaptation of Hardy’s novel for the theatre that same year.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra