Maidment Doctor, Frederick Norton Haylock

Dr Maidment was born in 1886 in Amesbury, Wiltshire.  In the 1911 census he was working as a medical practitioner in Mile End Old Town in London.  He then moved to Harleston and joined Dr Robinson in practice upon the retirement of Dr Candler in 1912.  Following the death of Dr Robinson in 1915 from a horse-riding accident, Dr Maidment was married to his daughter, Bertha Robinson.  His role as The Medical Officer & Commandant was to help deliver effective medical treatment to the patients at both the Hospitals in Harleston.  He died in Harleston in May 1966 aged 79.

There is an interesting story of an Alfred Munnings painting associated with Dr Frederick Maidment which accompanies his painting of “Woodcutting in October” which was purchased by Dr Robinson in 1901.  The following information was published by Bonhams Art Auctions in November 2012.

The present lot is accompanied by two original letters from Sir Alfred Munnings, dated 23 and 31 January 1945 respectively, to Dr Frederick Norton Haylock Maidment discussing Woodcutting in October in greater detail. Dr Maidment joined Dr Robinson in practice upon the retirement of Dr Candler by 1912. Following the death of Dr Robinson circa 1915 from a horse-riding accident, Dr Maidment was married to his daughter, Bertha Robinson.

As the letters discuss, Dr George Candler and Dr Robinson, who was the original purchaser of the work, were in partnership as general medical practitioners in Harleston, Norfolk, a market town next to Mendham. Dr Candler, whose family members had been doctors in the area for many years, owned a white pony which had been lent to Munnings as a model. The relationship with Dr Candler and the episode with the white pony is recollected by Munnings in An Artist’s Life under the chapter ‘The Doctor’s White Pony’ (p.95). Depicting two cousins, Nina and Cecil, and incorporating a complex use of light, this picture featuring Dr Candler’s white pony was given the title An Old Favourite and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1900 (no.391). Clearly a painting of exceptional quality, An Old Favourite was sold at auction for $2,972,500 in 1999.

Woodcutting in October depicts part of the Mendham marshes by the River Waveney, an area with whose people, landscape and traditions the artist was intimately acquainted. The woodcutter himself poses with a chopper as he trims the long poles cut from the grove of pollard willows along the bend of the river in what Munnings describes as the ‘North Meadow’. Writing about the present work in An Artist’s Life, Munnings recalls the work was hung in the Gem Room at the Royal Academy and that ‘the loveliness of that clear, low, October sunlight on the figure at work by the river was beyond even a Sargent’ (p.138).

Munnings painted more than one image of a woodcutter during this period and despite his original letter alluding to the present work having been exhibited in 1903 (he did exhibit The Woodcutter this year); this error is corrected in the second letter where he acknowledges the date of 1901. This amendment also changes the woodcutter himself from ‘Old Norman’ to Harry Butcher (referred to as Walter Butcher in An Artist’s Life), the son of an old pig-man. The intriguing details of the letters also reveal that Woodcutting in October was not originally signed and dated by the artist but that he committed to do so after the war.  Munnings’ clear recollection of Woodcutting in October is illustrated by the sketch that forms the final page of his first letter, executed some 45 years later from his cottage on Exmoor.

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