Pardey is better known as The Painting Postman and the work is key to understanding his late hyper-realist period. First mentioned in Diana Talley’s definitive biography, it was believed lost when Pardey cleared out his studio in 2019.
Builders refurbishing the Bridge House Hotel had thrown the canvas into their skip, little realising its value. It was pulled from the rubbish by retired fine art auctioneer A.C. Brown, now a Wroxton resident, as he arrived for his lunchtime pint.
Based on a map of the Norfolk coast and the adjacent sea, with outlines of four aeroplanes and an RAF roundel, the picture is classic Pardey, with meticulous attention to detail and finish. In the bottom left corner is his trademark “credit card” panel, with another roundel, a photographic representation of a Typhoon FGR4, and his precision lettering.
The dominating feature, fascinating to all who see it, is the blue ribbon-like mark which wriggles uninhibited over the land before heading into the North Sea behind a red plane. This is the culmination of Pardey’s experimental use of garden snails. He would feed them a secret compound incorporating blue food dye and set them loose on the canvas – the ribbon is the result. It represents one of the pinnacles of aleatory art in the 20th century.
The quality of detail defies description. The innocent eye, coming to the work for the first time, would think it was a computer screen shot.
A grant from the Arts Council enabled Tate Modern to buy the picture for the nation from Woodfordes, owners of the hotel. After minor restoration it will be hung in St. Ives from next month.