Children playing in a Park, Ludlow is one of a series that Steer painted of the river Teme at Ludlow from the late 1890's through the first decade of the 20th Century. The series shows how Steer's style had moved away from his earlier experiments with Impressionism, inspired by Whistler and Monet, which led to an almost pointillist technique. His modified style could be seen as the search for a kind of romantic arcadianism which was inspired by the work of Turner and Constable. It is probably an apocryphal story, but Steer was believed to have carried a copy of Turner's Liber Studiorum with him when painting landscape.
In his desire to revitalise the English Tradition of landscape painting, Steer chose to revisit the countryside of his youth. He was accompanied on his summer painting trips of this period by his regular companions, and fellow founders of the New English Art Club, Fred Brown and William Coles.
This late work from the series is quintessentially an Edwardian period piece with children playing in a pastoral idyll. It is therefore interesting that it is so robustly painted, and shows the strong emphasis that Steer placed upon the malleable and expressive qualities of the paint itself. The handling of the sky in this picture suggests that he was now interested in Turner not so much for composition as for expression.
Children playing in a Park, Ludlow was 'carried on with' in Steer's studio over a period, after its beginning in Ludlow in 1906. It was finally exhibited at Steer's one-man show at Goupil's Gallery in 1909 as In a Park, Ludlow. It combines a number of Steer's characteristics during his mature years: a nostalgic, rather wistful view of the three young girls in the foreground (actually some distance off); a sweeping view of his beloved Severn valley; and a rather spectacular evening sky.
A smaller version of Children playing in a Park, Ludlow (Laughton, Steer, no. 437), more thinly painted and with a different light, was commissioned by Geoffrey Blackwell, as the present picture had been sold to A.C. Hammersley at Goupil's exhibition of 1909. Blackwell went on to purchase the present picture from Goupil's in 1923.
We are grateful to Bruce Laughton for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.