Parasols, Southwold

1923 by Joseph Southall
Bridgeman Art Library

What it interesting about this picture is the ability of the twenties style of drawing to encompass, and in a way transform, a day at the British beach. What is a typical day at the seaside has been morphed into something that seems to exude the wealth and decadence of the time. Of course the twenties style is perfectly clear; there has perhaps never been such a distinct style, before or since, that captured an age so well. The ladies’ faces are nonchalant, there are high-heels on the beach, fabric and clothes are fashionably paid attention and, as the title professes, they have Chinese style parasols, not umbrellas. It is easy to see why such art is termed decorative, but it is a pleasure to look at and, though idealistic, the image does have a warmth, articulated through glistening waters and glowing sands.

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