With the exception of the limited edition My Corner of The Field, Edward Wesson never published a book in his lifetime, but the subsequent literature more than makes up for that!
The lack of first-person writing is a shame because, by many accounts, Wesson was an inspiring teacher whose enthusiasm, as much as his technical instruction, encouraged many aspiring artists. Preceding the paintings in this new book are several shortish essays that capture some of the personality behind the easel and that’s a welcome addition that marks this one out.
Wesson was an influence on many painters of the late twentieth century and himself carries echoes of Edward Seago. Flicking quickly through this book, you might be forgiven for thinking you’ve picked up the James Fletcher Watson volume that comes from Halsgrove at the same time. That’s not a criticism of either artist, but James was himself very much the inheritor of Wesson’s mantle, both as regards subject matter and teaching style. Both led by example and encouraged by positive criticism, making their courses as much a pleasure as they were instructional.
I’ve hinted that there have been a lot of books about Wesson (most of them from Halsgrove) in recent years. Can there possibly be any material left that’s worth reproducing? That’s the question I’ve asked with each new volume and the answer has always been “yes”. Wesson was remarkably prolific and a lot of what appears here are in fact demonstration paintings, done in the field in front of a group. But they’re not just sketches, not something half-finished, not just of interest as souvenirs for those who were there. Some are looser than others, sure, but if you didn’t know, you’d just stand back in amazement at the flexibility of Wesson’s style and especially how he could record all the necessary detail of a scene while working about as loosely as is possible. One of the introductory essays is a portrait of Wesson during a course and a valuable record of the man himself at work.
As for the reproduction, I think the publisher must have gone back to original paintings for everything that appears; you can’t get this sort of quality from transparencies and they’re to be congratulated for eschewing that much easier route. This isn’t a cheap book, but it doesn’t cut any corners either. There’s a slight hint in the cover blurb that some of the pictures that appear here might also have made it into print before. I can’t conduct a full audit, but it’s possible that you may have some of them already. Equally, what’s said might mean that the book is made up of his personal archive as well as other unpublished work. I’m not sure. Either way, I’d recommend this book strongly simply for the variety and quality of the collection and the personal memoirs that accompany it.