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In Pursuit Of Miller’s Landscape
I have always been a great admirer of the artist John Miller. His simplistic coastal landscapes are a wonderful escape from the rigours of city life in Birmingham.
But what of the subjects of his work? Were they just figments of his imagination or did these places actually exist?
Since buying my first print ‘Estuary’, his worlds have always seemed a beautiful Utopia, scenes of unrivalled natural beauty, somewhere I wanted to be.
Eventually I discovered his work portrayed much of the coastline of St Ives Bay in Cornwall, the county of unrivalled myths and legends, and that the estuary in question was in Hayle.
It wasn’t long until I was making my way south along the M5 motorway in pursuit of the landscape John Miller had found so irresistible. The M5 takes you to the south of England.
Picking up the A30 would take me into the far reaches of the southwest, first Devon and ultimately into Cornwall.
The journey down the M5 was fairly nondescript. There’s little to catch your eye as you make your way south. The motorway is simply a link to all the towns and cities along the west coast.
But upon reaching Devon, the A30 takes you through beautiful English countryside. Green rolling hills frame the horizon. The land is dressed like a patchwork quilt as farmers go about their daily business harvesting the land and seeing to the many animals scattered about their fields.
Driving through Cornwall was equally enjoyable, though the skyline was dominated occasionally by manmade structures.
The green land and blue waters of isolated lakes were interrupted by huge wind turbines. Stood like giant white sentinels, though they may be a little sore on the eye, they are an essential piece of the jigsaw if governments are to find alterative energy sources to ease the threat of global warming.
The ‘Welcome to Hayle’ sign was greeted with a sigh of relief having spent the past five hours on the road. I headed for the docks and parked the car.
There were a dozen or so fishing boats in the harbour, many manned as fisherman prepared their vessels for a days work.
I left the boats and followed the water as it led through the estuary. It snaked its way through the contours of the land.
As I rounded a final bend the river met the sea and for the first time I could see where Miller had painted ‘Estuary’. I stood at the precise spot he must have sat with his easel. It was easy to imagine the inspiration that must have flooded through his body.
As I walked nearer to the sea, the scene unfolded before me. To the left the coast continued to sweep around before reaching the town of St Ives.
I headed right, trying to stay out the way of the dozens of wind surfers scattered about the beach. Now the whole of the bay was visible. Several miles of golden sands lay before me.
As the shoreline drifted away to the left, Godrevy Lighthouse stood at the end of the bay, so prominent in many of John Miller’s paintings. Finally I had seen Miller’s landscape come to life.