THE ECREHOUS: Paine’s last work

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The Ecrehous 1965-1967 – gouache on board.

Shortly after Paine’s death in 1967 the Jersey Evening Post published (10th July) a tribute by Paine’s friend and neighbour, Desmond Rexworthy.   He wrote, ‘During the last two years in his studio at La Guerdainerie, he was working on a study of sky and tide at the Ecréhous* which was to be a sublimation of his technique of dynamic synthesis.   Inspiration was not visual alone – music provided the discipline for his composition.   The counter-currents at the turn of the tide about the rocks, the very structure of the skyscape, both were portrayed  over a synthesis of geometric construction of infinite variation based upon the recurrent relationships of the Bach fugue.’

Paine said that even if unfinished the Ecréhous would still be a picture worthy of display.   It is particularly interesting in that it shows the complex geometric underpinning of his work.   He spent a long time trying to make the sea lie flat and said he couldn’t get it right.  When Harold Hards, the son of his neighbours at Welwyn, visited him and saw this work in progress the artist described it to him as ‘the achievement of a lifetime’.

The painting was slightly damaged on the left side during a house move.   It is now in a private collection in France.

* The Écréhous are a group of islands and rocks situated six miles (9.6 km) north-east of Jersey, and eight miles (12.8 km) from France.   They form part of the Bailiwick of Jersey and are administratively part of the Parish of St. Martin. All but the three largest are submerged at high tide. There are no permanent residents on the islands and there is no fresh water there.   Due to erosion, they are now much smaller than they may have been within historic times.   Maîtr’Île, the largest of the islets, is about 300 metres (0.19 mi) long.   There are a small number of fishermen’s huts, some used as holiday residences, on the largest islets, and one official building, a customs house, on La Marmotchiéthe.

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