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Ewart Chapman’s paintings and the photographs that inspired them

By rob taylor  |  Posted: January 30, 2013

A local chain gang, who inspired Ewart's paintings on the subject.

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THE LATE Ewart Chapman made his name with the Cradley Heath electrical store which is still thriving today in Reddal Hill, but many people in that neck of the woods will be familiar with another aspect of his character.

Ewart was in his later years an artist, and some of his paintings, usually of an industrial nature, were reproduced as postcards which still pop up from time to time.

And we must thank Ewart's daughter Mary Green once again for providing us with some of the photographs he worked from, along with copies of the finished paintings.

It seems that Ewart's preferred method was to take elements from several photographs, work them up into sketches and then produce a painting that was a composite of several elements.

We have three of the photographs here, taken in a Black Country works, presumably in the Netherton or Cradley Heath area in the late fifties or early sixties. In fact the team of three men are making chain, and with Ewart's own connections to Noah Hingley's, where he worked as an electrician in his youth, it's possible the pictures were taken there.

The pictures are dark — the glowing links, fresh from the forge, are almost the only source of light — but they're certainly atmospheric. Hopefully someone may be able to make out a relative amongst the working men and tell us a bit more about the pictures.

The painting which resulted from Ewart's studies of these photographs was entitled The Big Chain Makers, a portrait of a three man team lit by a single shaft of light through a tiny window and the glow of the hearth, as a length of freshly forged chain snakes away behind them across the factory floor. In the foreground is a boy with a dog, and a bottle of beer which he has no doubt just brought in for one of the gang.

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