The Picnic, 1911
In 1908 Wilfrid’s sister Rachel moved to Overshot Mill at Colne Engaine, on the border of Essex and Suffolk, with her husband, Frank Marsh, and their children. Without any offspring of their own the de Glehns always maintained a close relationship with the young family and it was through regular visits to see them that the artist first began painting in the area that had been made famous by the work of John Constable. In fact, Constable’s work was receiving a considerable reappraisal at this time, with many British artists considering his paintings to be a precursor to the French Impressionists. From 1908, de Glehn painted a number of scenes depicting the waterways around Essex and Suffolk, a few of which took for their subjects the very buildings Constable had painted before him.
Overshot Mill was situated not far from the Stour on the river Colne and Wilfrid was particularly fond of fishing on the small tributary stream that ran through the mill. In a letter sent by Jane to her mother from the mill in 1908, she states that
We all came down here on Sunday. Yesterday Wil and I, Rachel, Louis and Lucien took a wagonette and drove all over in the valley to see if we could find a nice place to paint these few months.
The de Glehns took Mill House at Wormingford near the River Stour in the early summer of 1911 and invited their friend the composer, Roger Quilter, to stay for a while. He appears in de Glehn’s impressionist masterpiece, The Picnic, along with Jane, Wilfrid’s brother Louis and his niece, Barbara, who is shown emerging from the water. The composition is reminiscent of Renoir’s luncheon scenes at Chatou, and more particularly of Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe.
The Watermill, Suffolk, 1908
The Overshot Mill, c.1920