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ID number:  BIRRC-A0074
Institution:  Research and Cultural Collections
Named collection:  Campus Collection of Fine and Decorative Art
Artist / Maker:  Burden, Ruth (1925-2012)
Title / Object name:  Sheep in landscape
Object type:  Painting
Date made:  c. 1960
Materials:  Oil on canvas
Measurements:  50.8 x 76.2 cm
BIRRC-A0074(1).jpg

Ruth Burden is a local artist and teacher. Born and educated in Worcester, she later studied at the Birmingham College of Art in the early 1950s under Bernard Fleetwood-Walker and Katherine Fryer. Burden typically works in bright oil paints applied in a rough and expressive manner that has much in common with the landscapes of L.S. Lowry and Christopher Wood. As you can see in Sheep in the Landscape, Burden’s work is characterised by an endearing naivety in representing the exterior world. The roaming sheep are cartoon-like in their simplicity. Superimposed upon the landscape they appear to almost float on top of the picture surface like fluffy white clouds. There is also a distinctive flatness and two-dimensional quality to Burden’s painting, very little attention being paid to achieving a convincing illusion of perspective or spatial depth. Evidently Burden is less concerned with creating an accurate likeness of a landscape, and more with capturing the essence of a place. Detail is kept to a minimum and there is a dreamlike quality that would suggest that this is not an identifiable landscape, but one formed from composites of places half-remembered or imagined. Features such as the river in the foreground, the row of trees in the middle ground, and the grazing sheep, appear as generic signs, rather than studied depictions. Burden herself has commented, ‘my inspiration is derived from surroundings and memories, subject matter close at hand- and from everywhere I look.’

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