Title: Etching

Author: Cilla McQueen

In: Sport 36: Winter 2008

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, 2008

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Verse Literature

Conditions of use



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Sport 36: Winter 2008


page 72


Art ages. For instance, this view of York Minster engraved with a fine burin.

In the foreground an upright car of 1930s vintage with a cloth top, square back window, bumpers and narrow wheels is either parked or driving towards the cathedral through deep shade cast by a tall tree on the left. The shadow stretches across the road almost to the centre of the picture.

On the right-hand footpath, opposite the reaching shadow, a single figure walks beside a fence towards the cathedral. In the middle distance four people stand to the right of the entrance. Further reduced by distance, a group of three on the steps in front of the door.

The distant three are little more than scratches but it is possible to see from the arrangement of their lines that a tall man, hands clasped behind his back, his legs two fine strokes, is bending slightly towards the woman beside him who is middle-aged, well-dressed, with a pale fur around her shoulders. Fox. Standing beside the woman is a gauche, slim-shouldered girl.

The engraving of light areas is so feathery that the outline of York Minster is faintly blurred. Shaded areas are hatched. The cathedral is bathed in sunlight from high on the left. It might be spring, late morning, after Matins.

Of the group on the right, two are children. A boy of about eight wearing a cap, hands in his pockets, stands near his smaller sister. With the use of a magnifying glass one can see that their mother is wearing a knee-length chequered skirt, a fitted jacket and a beret. The other figure might be a woman with her back turned, wearing a fur coat over a dark skirt below the knee.

The single figure on the right is unlike the groups outside the church, whose shadows are miniatures of the larger shadow's strong horizontal. This figure is going in the direction of the Minster but is page 73perhaps about to turn the corner of the garden and walk away down the western side.

A scarf over her hair, she walks heavily, bent slightly forward under the weight of a sack on her back. Her gait seems measured, trudging.

The dark streak of shadow across the base of the towers draws the eye which then travels up to their filigree crenellations. A difference in the line distinguishes the laden figure in the foreground from the groups near the cathedral steps.

On the left-hand footpath near the car, opposite the woman going the other way, three other figures can be seen in the shadow of the tree.

There is energy in the lines of all but the woman who is walking towards the church but not going to church. She is perhaps on her way home with a bag of washing. Head bent, she leans slightly to the left because of what is slung over her right shoulder. She walks past four rounded trees, fruit trees perhaps, half the height of the tree across the road which casts the long shadow. The shade of the small trees is diffuse.

York Minster is bathed in light. The yellowed etching is in its original mount and lacquered frame. The signature at bottom left, in pencil. The top stroke of the 'J' carries on to the end of the signature, paralleled by a confident underline, the hand light, rounded. The middle name of the artist is hard to read; it looks like Alphege, or Alphye.

On the right side of the etching is a sepia dot. Foxed.