The rich colours and hazy air of glorious views of the British countryside were the focus of artist Ernest Charles Walbourn’s career. With a canny ability to summon up the synergetic relationship between nature and humanity, Walbourn’s paintings would see him become a popular artist, fulfilling a need for the quaint and peaceable in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
An artistic career was not on the cards for Walbourn as a child. His father was set against his son pursuing a career in the arts, wanting him, instead, to be an architect. As a growing young man, however, Walbourn pushed his father to the limits. He ran away from home and lived in a pub until his father relented and saw to it that a small studio be made for Walbourn in the garden shed. Walbourn’s family were fairly well-off, which therefore enabled him to receive a thorough arts education, although from who it is, unfortunately, unclear.
Nonetheless, Walbourn made a move to Essex and began exhibiting his works, both in London, notably at the Royal Academy, and in the wider country. He began to grow quite a reputation, his peaceful pastoral pieces appealing to audiences who were going about the turgid changes of mass industrialisation. This need would only grow deeper when World War One loomed in the early 20th century.
There is something incredibly active in Walbourn’s glorious scenes. His brushstrokes seem characterful in themselves, and they seep onto the canvas rich colours of earthy tones and ethereal skies. He builds up scenes with a canny ability, making far-off fields and crowded woodland appeal to a childlike nature. One imagines there is adventure to be found in them, the hazy colouring juxtaposing the lush display in the foreground lending something mythical to each piece. His figures, too, have this rosy-cheeked innocence, reminders of the simplicity and strength of country life. They are reassuring, in a way, reminders of the innocent pleasures of life.
Walbourn’s work did not only exhibit well but sell successfully, too. They were often reproduced to be sold upon Christmas cards, and even long after his death in 1927, reports of Walbourn’s work being discovered in car boot sales demonstrate amazement that such pieces should fall foul of clutter and jumble. In his lifetime, prints of his work ‘For King and Empire’ was offered to newspaper readers as a patriotic gesture during the First World War. Walbourn’s scene of a young man leaving his wife for the war struck upon the notes of idyllic life, however they are tendered with a feeling of sorrow. This man is off to a land of horrors, sacrificing his life for his country.
Walbourn’s painting affinity extended to his family. His wife, Eva, often assisted him in the paintings of the backgrounds of his larger works. She was a successful artist in her own right. His son, Peter Walbourn, also became an artist.
Born in Dalston, Middlesex, Britain.
Moved to Chingford, Essex. Exhibited at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters.
Exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy.
Married Eva Knight.
Son Peter Walbourn born.
Travelled to Brittany.
Died in Chingford, Essex, Britain.