This set is made up of pictures dotted across the span of Richard’s life. The sea and the beach of course dominated his output to a large extent but these deliberate groups of stones, shells and sometimes household objects seem to denote moments of inner reflection. They are vehicles for expression of calmness, joy or emotional pain.
This is the first time that a still life of pebbles or shells becomes the foreground in a beach scene. The huddle of people round a boat drawn up on the beach brings another dynamic to the picture and is echoed in several later paintings as an idea, e.g. Robin Hood’s Bay (1934-5) Marine Harvest (1949) and The Fish Market (1988).
This mountain of seaborne wrack is typical of the debris found on a beach after a storm or particularly high tide. But here it looks rather artfully arranged and the figure seems less substantial than the ‘still life’. We know that she is listening for the surge of the sea that we were always told could be heard in the whorls of a shell. Nowadays however her position is that of someone talking on their mobile phone. The distant stately sailing ship poised near the horizon has an almost mystical effect.
Here Richard in his 80s is painting in his earlier looser style but with a modernist feel to the picture. Coming in so close to the subject brings a new intimacy and a timeless atmosphere.