This sketch, chosen by the Head of the Archives and Museum for this month’s In the Frame, is one of a number of undated preparatory studies made by the artist Cynthia Weldon (née Pell), possibly during the 1950s when she was a student at Camberwell Art College in South London.
The page of sketches and jottings demonstrates the craftmanship behind the artist’s work. The half legible ‘notes to self’ contain detailed (occasionally surprising) instructions as to texture and colour, for instance: “Child’s navy woolly balaclava” or “purple and orange face, grey hair”. The sketch which I have selected from the page has no such written clues beside it, leaving it open to interpretation. I like to imagine it as a pile of delicious chocolate eclairs on an elegant stand, reflected in a mirror behind.
Cynthia Pell was admitted to Bexley Hospital in the 1970s, and much of the work in the museum’s collection dates from this period of her life. Her drawings include self portraits and observations of those around her on the ward, which can occasionally make for uncomfortable viewing. These studies are a pertinent reminder that there was life before hospital.
The sketch of the eclairs will not be on display at a forthcoming exhibition of Pell’s work at the Bethlem Gallery (Ordinary Moments, 28 August – 20 September 2013) as it is on the reverse of another drawing. However, the exhibition will include a wide range of work, some of it recently acquired from Cynthia’s art therapist at Bexley, Britta von Zweigbergk.