Fodor’s guidebook describes the Cotswolds – the range of rolling limestone hills between Oxford and Gloucester – as “touring country par excellence; here are the timeless tableaus of rural England . . . and medieval prosperity.” Summer 1998, Carroll Collier spent a week driving through this picturesque region with his wife, Mildred, and son, Grant. From Chipping Campden to Stow-on-the-Wold, Mr. Collier saw paintings wherever he turned.
The works that emerged from this trip focus, for the most part, on the pastoral beauty of the Cotswolds: majestic churches built by wealthy wool merchants, thatched roof houses and rutted roads meandering through quaint villages. In Henley-on-the-Thames, he painted the town’s arched bridge; in Burford, the old coaching inns lining High Street as it winds up the hill from the river.
In each village, Collier’s artistic eye was drawn to the aged stone facades of the architecture, often dating to medieval times. Fascinated with the textural elements created when the sunlight hit the honey-hued limestone edifices, he found Chipping Campden’s St. James church and chapel a particularly interesting subject. A sense of history radiates from the view of the fifteenth-century chapel and the low dry-stone walls lining the landscape in Past & Present, a striking 24 x 36-inch oil painting.
The English countryside, not surprisingly, parallels Carroll Collier’s quiet personality and tranquil style. As Collier talks about the inherent beauty of the region, he relays his ever-growing awareness of the intensity of the verdant landscape. Painting on location, he found he had to alter his normal color spectrum to capture the blanket of lush green which creates the region’s natural beauty and directs its economic base. Here, the thin soils are difficult to plow, but the limestone grass is excellent grazing for local sheep herds. The wool industry, which developed as early as the 12th century, depended on a breed of sheep that took its name from the region, the Cotswold. Today, the breed has changed – merino sheep now dominate – but the wool industry continues to provide a strong economic base for the region.
On his trip, Collier carried a simple travel palette which attaches to his belt, keeping his hands free for canvas and brush. “A travel easel is too restrictive; I found that I missed too many great views by painting only where I could set up the easel.” So, as the creative mind does, he solved this logistical problem many years ago by transforming an ordinary paint tray into a portable painter’s palette – one he can literally wear, allowing him the freedom to paint or sketch from any vantage point.
Long known for his painterly style, Carroll Collier is one of Texas’ most accomplished artists, and as his newest bank of work indicates, he just keeps getting better.