My Favourite Painting: Thea Musgrave

‘Paintings, of course, exist in space, not in time – and yet they inspire motion, as well as emotion, in the beholder.'

Thea Musgrave chooses Sonorous Tree:

‘In addition to the sheer craft of her painting, the bursting energy of all those branches amid the warmth and variety of its red glow, Victoria Crowe has managed to suggest simultaneously the chaotic detail of full life and the serene grounding of solidity and its inherent quietness.

‘This made Sonorous Tree the perfect final image for my new Trumpet Concerto, which is based on six of her tree paintings. Together, they paint a continuous story that moves in time as music must do.

‘Paintings, of course, exist in space, not in time – and yet they inspire motion, as well as emotion, in the beholder.’

Thea Musgrave is a composer. The world premiere of her Trumpet Concerto will be performed at Cheltenham Music Festival on July 6.

John McEwen on Sonorous Tree:

Victoria Crowe, an only child, was born in Kingston-upon-Thames.

Her father, a machine buyer, would have liked to have gone to art school. She first went to the Ursuline Convent Grammar School in London, then to Kingston College of Art. There, she showed unusual maturity, as the artist Prunella Clough’s criticism made clear: ‘The majority of students take a long time to find their feet and establishing a way of working – this is not your problem.’ At Kingston, she met her husband, Michael Walton, a fellow student.

On the strength of her Royal College of Art degree show, Edinburgh College of Art offered her a teaching post, which she held until her retirement in 1998. Today, the couple divide their time between a house in West Linton and a studio in Venice.

Equally at home with portraiture, still life or landscapes, Miss Crowe’s work often defies such classification. Recently, she has embarked on a series of bare winter trees, returning to a subject she explored when she was a student.

Miss Crowe’s biographer Duncan Macmillan wrote that her early-established ‘interest in pattern and surface’ has evolved into ‘spiritual landscapes’. He cited Con-stable’s advice to his pupils in his last lecture, quoting Ecclesiastes: ‘Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth.’

Of Sonorous Tree, the artist writes: ‘This is a painting of a contorted larch tree, a few golden needles still remaining. The twisting branches, caught by the light from a red, winter sunset, seemed like fire against the darkening shadows of evening. Despite its tiny size, the painting had a powerful impact and a transcendent quality which I am delighted Thea has responded to.’

Victoria Crowe: 50 Years of Painting is at City Art Centre, Edinburgh, until October 13.


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