Lionel Playford’s Solway

Pennines-based artist and Higham Tutor Lionel Playford unveiled his stunning new commission in the form of a large landscape oil painting for us earlier this year. The short ceremony with 30 invited guests turned out to also be a celebration of being able to return to some sort of normality, as well as marking the occasion.

Lionel, who has been one of Higham Hall College’s main Art Tutors for over 15 years, had been asked for a painting which would be fitting for the main Lecture Room at the hall and have some relevance to its setting. As a result, Lionel decided to depict the coastal scenery of the territories to the north of where the hall is located, looking towards Scotland across the Solway. This was partly inspired by Lionel’s own experiences over the years of taking Higham students out on field trips to engage with the environment.

Lionel Playford - Solway Firth Commission for Higham Hall College

Lionel Playford – Solway Firth Commission for Higham Hall College

The unveiling ceremony was an opportunity to celebrate the new painting and was enjoyed by the guests who heard a short talk by Lionel about the commission. He explained his choice of setting, including the significant rock in the sand known as Maston, which dwarfs the two figures walking their dog when one looks closely, the skyline of Criffel in the distance and the status of the sands in relation to the tide. This helped to deepen the gathering’s appreciation of the work.

Lionel spoke about his stimuli for the work and his process of execution, which involved visits in different weather and light conditions so that he could capture the essence of what he could include in the view. He mentioned how he a placed figures and a boat subtly in the scene to offer a sense of perspective. He also explained aspects of the artistic license he had taken as the artist, which enabled him to make the composition work as a painting. This was important, as, once committed to canvas, they results would remain for all to judge for years to come!

An unexpected bonus for the people who attended the celebration was the presence in the audience of Ann Lingard, author of the recent non-fiction book ‘The Fresh and the Salt. The Story of the Solway‘. Chapter seven of the book actually includes an encounter with Lionel Playford a consultant artist about the scenery of the Solway. Ann was kind enough to agree to Lionel’s on the spot request to say a few words in addition to those of Lionel and shed some more light on the nature of the Solway landscape and the features in the painting.

The painting, one of, if not the largest work(s) we have here, now proudly hangs permanently in the Lecture Room at Higham Hall.