Rosemary Strachey has drawn all her life. The first painting she remembers doing was of Swiss cow and pink mountains. Why pink? Because, she says, that was the colour they were. This is not to imply that there is a literalism about Rosemary’s work, but there is a careful observation of nature coupled with a serene and disciplined sense of design.
She was taught painting at the Slade and Andre Lott’s summer school near Montelimar. During the war she lived with her husband, John Strachey, in a Devon farmhouse and remembers selling half a dozen of her paintings at an exhibition in black-out London. In the mid-fifties she moved to the south of Spain where she has lived and painted ever since. The landscape of Andulucia has enormously varied landscape. The August tourists to the coast tends to think of trees grow. Rosemary Strachey shows us a subtler place, for example, her goats in the foreground has almost the formality of a toy farmyard but the surrounding wide dark pastures are quite another vision of space and isolation.
Greys, blues, lavender and the brilliant greens of spring are the colours which dominate her palette; the paint is generally applied thinly and evenly. It is interesting to note how very close both in colour and design watercolour sketches and pastels are to the finished oils which succeed them. As many of the works shown here testify, Rosemary Strachey is particularly effective at rendering the variety of trees which grow in Andulucia; poplars and eucalyptus rise elegant and static against smooth hills, while evergreen oaks and olives can seem like explosions of smoke, as if a whole landscape were momentarily transformed into a highly organised target practice.
Perhaps her most sophisticated pictures are her many portraits of cats. Here she catches exactly the formality and grace of the animals and often, very subtly, will set them on chairs where elaborate wooden curls match the sinuous shapes of the cat and the whole painting seems to be elegantly on the move.
There is a remarkable consistency of vision throughout her work and a technical assurance which never descends into the automatic. These pictures, the result of skill, observation, knowledge and instinct, aim to please, and they succeed in this excellent, unfashionable ambition.