Mary Newcombe

There is a naïve quality to the work of Mary Newcombe that almost suggests an accidental artist, a “true find” among the rural East Anglian community in which she lived. This could not be further from the truth, but her work does nevertheless mainly stem from her immediate surroundings – the diurnal life of the countryside with its people, animals, flowers, birds and insects. Mary’s daughter Tessa describes her mother as “[feeling] connected to it in the same way that the nature poet John Clare did”, and having the same sense of living with nature rather than looking at it.

The more you look at the many works here, the more you realise that the depth of artistry is profound. These are not portraits or landscapes in the straightforward sense and Mary is most certainly no Alfred Wallis, no happy accident. Composition, structure and colour are all carefully assembled to create a sense of a living landscape viewed from within and not without. Mary is no metropolitan arriving in the country to find inspiration, still less herself.

The book tells the story of Mary’s life and work and also draws heavily on the illustrated diary she was encouraged to start in 1986 by Andras Kalman, who had been exhibiting her work since the early 1970s. It’s a tale worth telling and even more worth reading.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

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