Say “East Anglia” to most people and they immediately think of Norfolk, flat and with big skies. The less kind may also make clever remarks about webbed feet, which are very practical, I’ll have you know.
To some extent, this book won’t really dispel the myth of a rural backwater as James’s painting style is strongly reminiscent of Victorian watercolours. That’s not to denigrate it and these historical paintings are beginning to find favour among collectors and critics again, but there is a slightly romanticised air about the pictures here. Once you realise that James’s home country is Lincolnshire, all becomes a little clearer, for the slightly dilapidated farmyards and hidden trackways are more typical of this county than they are of, say, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.
Whatever you may think of the style, there’s no doubt about the competence of its execution, or of the quality of the reproduction, which is first class. I don’t believe that sloppy work in this area should be forgiven, so a pat on the back to Halsgrove for the trouble they’ve taken here. If you like a slightly nostalgic view of the English countryside, maybe as it should be, rather than how it ever was, then this book will please immensely. For a quite substantial volume it’s not over-priced and will please anyone who has connections with or memories of the area. Just be aware that it’s not necessarily the big classic views (though you might regard this as a refreshing change, of course).
First published 2006