EDWARD WESSON RI, RSMA
1910 – 1983
Edward ‘Ted’ Wesson was born in Blackheath, London in 1910 and was educated at Colfe’s Grammar School on Lewisham Hill. Although more interested in sport than any form of academia he nevertheless achieved some success under the guidance of his art master ‘Dad’ Worthy.
With his father’s support Ted left the school in 1926 and found employment in textiles. The urge to paint came to the fore in 1930 and he began to fill his spare time with sketches made in Greenwich Park, becoming acquainted with the trees of the park and the distant views of London and the Thames. The thirties became an interesting time for Ted. He held down a small appointment as organist to a small church near Tower Bridge, formed the Old Colfean Rugger Club and met his wife to be, Caroline, known to all as ‘Dickie’. He was also fortunate to meet and show his work to the principal of the Art Department of Woolwich Polytechnic who gave him the valuable advice to continue to paint in pure watercolour his own way and in his own style.
Shortly after marrying Dickie in 1937 Ted joined up and after training in a heavy anti aircraft regiment he found himself sailing for North Africa in December 1940. Painting in his free time and regularly receiving copies of The Artist magazine from Dickie he used his leaves in Cairo and Palestine to continue painting and sold some of his pictures to publishers looking for semi-religious subjects.
After landing in Sicily the regiment moved up through Italy to Pisa where Ted met a prominent Tuscan painter, Ascanio Tealdi, who was acting as an interpreter. The two immediately established a rapport and Tealdi’s ease in painting in oils left a lasting impression on Ted who returned the compliment leaving his Italian friend dabbling in watercolour.
Ted returned to England and to his wife in May 1945 having been away for almost four and a half years. Although safely back in civvy street he was keen to continue with painting and now looked to submit his work to one of the major painting societies. It was not long before he had their attention and by 1952 he was a full member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour, becoming one of their most consistent exhibitors and, later, an important member of the Council. He also began to exhibit regularly with the Royal Society of Marine Artists and the Royal Society of British Artists.
As commissions, lectures, tutoring and demonstrations began to provide a reasonable income the decision to turn fully professional was inevitable. From that point on until his untimely death in 1983 at the age of 73 he never looked back and had never been so busy.
The English landscape, particularly rural fields and lanes, was always a subject close to his heart. His autobiography was not called My Corner of the Field by accident. His teaching courses and 'in the field' demonstrations constantly provided suitable material as did the byways of Surrey, particularly in and around Guildford where the Wesson’s lived for many years.
The Thames and its barges was another favoured location and subject and these pictures are amongst the most collected of his works. His own garden supplied much of the source material for his delicate flowerpieces, usually simple compositions of a few blooms in a simple jam jar or vase.
Further afield he painted in France, especially Normandy and Paris, in Venice, Scotland, the Channel Islands, the Lake District, the South Coast and the coast of the South West. Scenes of town and village life were inspired by a series of commissions for the Post Office and British Rail.
A feature of many of Ted’s pictures is their timelessness. Apart from the architecture of the town and village scenes there are no indications of when they might have been painted and he rarely if ever dated a picture.
“To many of us watercolour is the most difficult of all the media but, at the same time, the most beautiful. This is why, when I am asked which of all the media I prefer, my answer is always - When it comes off, there is nothing like a good watercolour”.
For Ted simplicity was the key to his work, simplicity in both composition and in materials. He painted in the best tradition of English watercolour, simplifying and capturing the essence of the scene in front of him with as few brush strokes as possible and using large brushes where necessary to eliminate the distraction of fussy detail.
His palette was in the main restricted to just a few colours because in his view “The fewer colours we have to know about, the more we shall get from them and because there are only a few, the more quickly we shall understand their possibilities”.
Being self-taught gave him a valuable insight into becoming a tutor himself. An excellent communicator, he combined a mixture of charm, wit and understanding with a great desire to pass on his enthusiasm to his classes. His teaching courses in England and painting holidays in Europe were always oversubscribed and he complimented them by writing many informative articles for The Artist and Leisure Painter magazines.
MY CORNER OF THE FIELD
In 1980 Alexander Gallery were asked to organise and host a trade seminar for members of The Fine Art Trade Guild, the trade association for galleries, framers, artists and publishers. Part of the brief was to supply the keynote speaker for the event and Ted seemed the obvious choice. Without notes and sitting relaxed on the edge of the stage he delivered an entertaining insight into his life as an artist incorporating anecdotes about his time in the army in WW II, as well as typically outspoken views on modern art.
He was so entertaining that the gallery suggested that he commit his thoughts to paper in the form of an autobiography, a proposal Ted embraced enthusiastically and in May 1982 My Corner of The Field was published. Published in a single edition of 2,000 copies and printed on a special paper to closely mimic the texture of watercolour paper the book contained a mixture of colour and black and white illustrations chosen by Ted. The advance subscription reached 664 and the book sold to collectors and admirers all over the world, including HRH The Prince of Wales. Long since sold out it has become the essential collector’s item for fans of Ted’s work. We do occasionally have copies for sale. Please check on our BOOKS page for availability.
Ted passed away in 1983 but left behind a lasting legacy, not only in his paintings but in his influence on many amateur and professional artists. His studio sale was held by Alexander Gallery in 1986 and in the same year he was honoured by the town of Guildford with a major public retrospective exhibition.
Aware of the continuing and growing interest in his work Alexander Gallery began regular posthumous exhibitions in 1999. These exhibitions stimulated the interest of book publishers keen to expand on the growing interest in limited edition fine art books and for a full list of published works and availability of titles please refer to our BOOKS page.