Art Appreciation Series: Rosalind Robinson RWA on Peter Folkes RWA

Art Appreciation Series: Rosalind Robinson RWA on Peter Folkes RWA

We asked our artists to share their favourite works from our Permanent Collection. Here is Academician Rosalind Robinson's pick.


Peter Folkes RWA (1923-2019), Cow Considering the Stars and Moon, acrylic on canvas, 33.7 x 51.4cm

Thirty five years ago, I moved from London to live in the Wiltshire countryside. It was then that I first encountered cows at close quarters. At that time, the local dairy farmer grazed a herd of cattle on the fields immediately in front of and behind our house. Throughout the summer months I would often lie awake listening to the gentle sound of ruminating cows outside my window and I would wonder what, if anything, they might be thinking about. This painting answers my questions because, of course, the cows were very busy ‘Considering the Stars and the Moon’. What else?

The cow looms large in the foreground of the painting, and the strong reflected light on its underbelly gives a luminosity to its heavy body. The dappled starlight on the shoulders and haunches suggests that the animal is quietly absorbing the energy of the planets. When I chose this painting from the RWA Permanent Collection, I didn't know anything about the artist, Peter Folkes. I have since learned that he died only last year, at the age of 95, which for me adds an extra poignancy to the painting. That an artist could leave behind an image that both intrigues and entertains whilst also imparting reassurance and solace is a wonderful achievement.

As I write, the world is in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic and our daily lives have been turned upside down, filled with fear and uncertainty. We must stay in our homes and avoid human contact. Art can only be experienced in the virtual world online. Nothing is as it was before.

Except Nature, which celebrates man’s enforced inactivity, and continues to provide the joy of the changing seasons. And the cows continue to consider the mysteries of the night sky.