Water Colour Paintings of W. Rawcliffe
An Unknown Artist in the United Kingdom
Possibly Scenes From Around
Just prior to his home being cleared after his wife died in 1971, Archibald James 'Archie' Lamont of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, handed a bulging 10" x 15" envelope to his son, Archie George Wares Lamont [A G W L]. Inside the envelope were almost 50 watercolour paintings, ranging in size from 1 3/8" x 2" to about 12" x 9". Most were not signed, but some had versions of the signature "W. Rawcliffe" in the lower right corner.
Archie Lamont had worked for the Massey-Harris Company in Toronto from the early 1930s, starting there a few years after he & his wife emigrated from their native Scotland in 1921. He was with the company until he retired in 1964, ending his time there as 'Plant Manager'.
Massey-Harris began building a large agricultural implements factory at Kilmarnock in Scotland, around 1948, expanding in the UK from Manchester, where an implement manufacturing facility had been established in 1946, and where tractor manufacturing begain in 1948. Construction at Kilmarnock was apparently completed by 1951. Archie is believed to have been sent from Toronto to oversee parts of the Kilmarnock site development. He is positively known to have been there for several months in 1950, returning home by air on 22 December 1950. The timing and possible duration of other times he may have been at Kilmarnock are not known today. It is not known whether he played any role in either the establishment or the operation of the Manchester facility.
Archie Lamont is himself known to have had a strong interest in water colour paintings from about 1941, becoming very proficient and producing many paintings. Many of his paintings were given to family and friends, already mounted and framed.
The large envelope handed to A G W L, in which the water colour paintings were found, had been originally addressed to Archie at Massey Harris Co. Ltd., 915 King Street West, in Toronto. It had been sent from Modern Tool Works, Ltd, on Montcalm Avenue, in the part of the City of Toronto which was then in York Township. Modern Tool had operated at the Montcalm address since probably around late 1941 [The business was shown to be at Van Horne Avenue in the 1941 edition of Might's City of Toronto Directory; and at the Montcalm Avenue address when the 1942 edition was published]. The envelope had passed through the postal system, but there's no postmark on the envelope to help date it. The envelope was franked with a pair of precancelled Canadian 'War Issue' 3 cent rose violet regular issue postage stamps. These stamps were issued for sale for the first time on 30 June 1943 [Unitrade No. 252].
Written in pencil on the back side of the envelope, with no date, in Archie Lamont's handwriting, was "Rawcliffe's Water Colours". A G W L, probably some time around 1971 or 1972, wrote an additional notation [again undated] on the back of the envelope above his father's pencilled notation. A G W L used a pen and red ink, to differentiate his note from his father's. A G W L's notation reads: "Rawcliffe was a friend of my father's during a period in the midd 1950s that the latter spent with Massey Harris in Scotland. Both were watercolourists. How these came in to possession of A Lamont is not known". As mentioned above, inside the large envelope were almost 50 watercolour paintings.
The reverse of one of the paintings, a relatively small one, about 3" x 5" (No. 37 - the numbering is an artificial series, the author's own, applied prior to scanning to enable image differentiation), shows a caricature of Archie Lamont that could only have been done by Mr. Rawcliffe. It's the author's opinion that this caricature captured the essence of Archie Lamont 'to a T'! Another partial caricature, much less refined than the one on the back of No. 37, has been found on the back of painting No. 18. See the article "Caricatures of Archibald James Lamont, circa 1950"
Rawcliffe's 'Tiny Watercolours'
Nine of the 50 or so overall paintings were found in a small envelope [perhaps #5 size], which had "Massey-Harris Ltd, Moorfield Estate, Kilmarnock, Scotland", as a 'return address' in the upper left corner on the front. A mark inside indicated that the envelope had been 'Made in England'. A blue ink notation, written with a ball point pen by Archie Lamont shows that the contents were "Rawcliffe's Tiny Watercolours". A G W L made a further (undated) notation, in black ink, that these were "Given to Archibald J Lamont of Toronto by Rawcliffe while he (AJL) was working at MH in Scotland in the 1950s". The largest of the nine tiny watercolours found in this envelope is about 4" x 3"; another is about 2 3/8" x 3"; a third is about 3 3/8" x 1 3/4". Each of these three are rectangular in shape, with 90o corners. The remaining six tiny paintings are about 1 3/8" x 2", or, in two instances, about 2" x 1 3/8", each with rounded corners, or in the case of two, the shape of an oval. Each of these tiny watercolours presents a complete scene - a village scene, cottages, a house by a river, a roadway passing through gate posts, and/or a landscape, all in miniature. The smaller, rounded corner pieces are quite pleasant to look at. The largest of the rectangular pieces is much less well developed and almost abstract.
The 'Tiny Watercolours' from the small envelope can be seen in the image below.
Tiny Watercolours by W. Rawcliffe, possibly Kilmarnock area, Scotland, or near Manchester, England, circa 1950
Rawcliffe's Larger Watercolour Paintings
The remainder of the images have all been scanned at 600dpi, 200% scaling, TIFF format. Then each image was resized to an appropriate pixel width to give some sense of the relative size, and saved at 100dpi as a JPG format file. Each of the images (except for the tiny ones) appear below in the gallery.
Rawcliffe applied his painting media to a wide variety of papers and cards - some coarse 'brownish' paper; some porous 'creamy' paper; some light, medium and heavy card; and some odd bits and pieces. Some pieces were cut at odd angles (that is, with lesss than 90o corners), and some of the card stock was bent and torn to provide a smaller base for a painting. A group of the paintings, Nos. 20 to 25 below, were painted on pieces of 'Winsor & Newton Ltd Whatman Water-Colour Board', some of them roughly cut to shape and torn on the back side. Another grouping of smaller paintings, Nos. 26 to 30 below, were painted on the back of pieces of 'bristol board' card which appear to have started life as what looks like a sign - the letterpress text 'Admiralty Traffic' can be seen on the back side of these.
The Back Sides of Two Paintings
The back sides of two of the paintings (Nos. 35 & 36 below) yielded quite a surprise.
The porous white papers on which two paintings had been done had been glued to the top and bottom halves of what turned out to have been a hand lettered and coloured poster. The poster promoted a Dance which was to be held at the Belle Vue Tudor Ballroom on Thursday, February 16th. Admission was by ticket, 4 shillings 6 pence each. The event was sponsored by the 'MOS - Manchester Branch', but it is not known what this body was. The poster was originally of quite thick card stock, and there are two pin holes in the upper corners, which show that it had been tacked up somewhere with thumbtacks. There's no evidence to suggest that it was ever rain spattered, or splashed with any other liquid. There is also no evidence that the original poster board was damaged in any way - other than being folded and torn in half to use as mounting board for two of Rawcliffe's water colour paintings.
The image below shows my very inept attempt to 'rebuild' the poster, to 'stitch' two scanned images together using the open-source software 'GIMP'. But, remember that the poster was folded in the middle and torn apart, leaving quite rough edges between the two parts [application of graphic arts is clearly not one of the author's strong suits!]. Overall, the poster when re-assembled, measures about 10 1/2" x 14 1/4".
February 16th fell on a Thursday only in 1939, 1950, and 1961, so this might help us date the painting. Unfortunately, no evidence - neither advertisements nor notices about this dance have been found in newspapers published in Manchester prior to Thursday 16 February 1950. It's believed that the Tudor Ballroom was consumed by fire which started in the early hours of the 17th of January 1958.
Poster Advertising a Dance in Manchester Thursday 16 February [1950 ?]
Severed & Used as a Mounting Board for Two of Rawcliffe's Watercolours
Who was W. Rawcliffe?
No one today has a clue! I pride myself in being a proficient genealogical investigator, but no traces of who W. Rawcliffe might have been have been found.
Clearly he [or, perhaps, she ?] was a living, breathing, painting human. But where did he come from? Where was he at various moments in his life? What happened to him? When and why did Archie Lamont end up with this collection of paintings?
The facts we have are minimal - his name has only come down to us as "W. Rawcliffe", His full first name is not known - was it William, Walter, Wilfred, or something else? We have a whiff of a hint that he connected with Archibald James Lamont some time in the very late 1940s or early 1950s. Did he do so around Kilmarnock, or perhaps in Manchester, where Massey-Harris started producing tractors in 1946? Did he and Archie meet in a water colourist's class in Glasgow, or even in Manchester? We just don't know!
Does anyone reading this article recognize his signature? Do you have any idea about where the scenes Rawcliffe painted might be situated? What are your thoughts on who W Rawcliffe might have been? Please reach out to the author through the Contact link at the top of the page.
Further, anyone interested in purchasing these paintings may contact the author to express your interest.
A Gallery of W. Rawcliffe's Water Colour Paintings
- Bruce D. Murduck
- Category: Rawcliffe