In the first article of these two looking at paintings of thatched cottages, I showed two Nativity scenes in which thatch indicated the poverty of the surroundings, and several in bad need of repair. Those who could afford to do so had their thatch stripped and replaced by tiles, or even slates. Then, as the number of thatched cottages fell, they started to become fashionable.
Helen Allingham’s Children On A Path Outside A Thatched Cottage, West Horsley, Surrey shows a small village which has changed dramatically since. Not far from the artist’s home in Surrey, West Horsley is between Guildford and Leatherhead, an area which has been heavily developed through the twentieth century. It is now described as ‘semi-rural’, and remaining thatched buildings are sought-after.
Allingham’s A Cottage With Sunflowers, Peaslake isn’t far away, about five miles to the east of Guildford. Although much of this area has been preserved, its roads are extensive and very busy, particularly in the summer. It’s not far from the location used by John Brett for his masterpiece The Stonebreaker (1857-58).
Edward Stott’s Widow’s Acre from about 1900 shows a younger woman and a girl helping an older woman, presumably the widow of its title, gather potatoes from the garden of her thatched cottage.
Edward Stott’s undated pastel nocturne of the Adoration of the Shepherds returns to the thatch featured in Northern Renaissance paintings of the Nativity.
While sod roofs were more common in the northern Nordic countries, Denmark had an abundance of thatched cottages and farmhouses. These were frequently featured in paintings by the two Danish Andersens, who painted under the names of LA Ring and HA Brendekilde.
Ring’s rendering of an Old Outhouse from 1907 appears to have been painted quite quickly, probably in front of the motif.
Brendekilde’s Farmhouse with Meadow Flowers from 1909 shows a tumbledown thatched cottage somewhere in the Danish countryside, which features the wooden battens typically used to secure the apex in the local thatching tradition. A young girl is at the open door, and a farm dog stands watching from the path behind her.
Brendekilde’s While Reading the Newspaper News from 1912 shows two men outside a thatched cottage in the summer. One stands reading a newspaper intently, in silence. The other sits drawing on his large and elaborate pipe, staring vacantly into space, his right lower leg replaced with a crude wooden prosthesis, a ‘peg leg’.
In his Home for Dinner from 1917, a young girl holding some fresh fish stands talking to a man with a spade. Behind them is a thatched cottage, where presumably the two live.
The following year, Brendekilde painted a gardening story, in Afternoon Work (1918). A younger man is out on his finely-tilled vegetable patch in front of his thatched cottage. Standing just outside the door, behind him, is his young daughter, and through the window is an older woman, presumably his wife. Both are watching him intently, with an air of fear at what he is about to do. He looks as if he is about to attack a small crop of molehills which have appeared freshly in the midst of his seedling vegetable plants.
My final painting, made by LA Ring when he was 78, is also one of the best views of Danish thatch, as seen from the artist’s house. View Over the Roofs at Sankt Jørgensbjerg, Denmark, from 1932, has fine precision in its leafless trees and the texture of the thatch.