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Life and work in the landscape

Allen’s personal integrity was reflected in his paintings. To him all landscapes were special. He concentrated on 'ordinary' countryside scenes, often returning to the same spot to capture the changes in light and character through the seasons. His favourite spots included Farnham Park and water meadows, Tilford Bridge, Waverley Woods, Moor Park and Mill, Binsted and the Bourne Valley. However he maintained his links with Alton, where his grandparents had lived and his parents were married, and in 1926 became a founder member of the Alton Art Society, contributing regularly to its annual exhibition. 

Being himself a craftsman, Allen was able to understand an appreciate the work of people engaged in what were then seen as very ordinary tasks: the cutting and transport of timber; making of charcoal and the seasonal routines of ploughing, cutting and gathering in of crops. He left few written notes and no great manifesto for his art, but must have realised that the way of life he was recording was fading into history, not least owing to the two World Wars of the 20th century and which had a profound effect on the lives of ordinary people. 

Although he clearly had a passion for the rural landscape along the Hampshire/Surrey border, Allen continued to paint during his family holidays, capturing the essence of the towns and villages through which he passed. Notably absent are any traces of mechanisation; there are no tractors, cars or even railways in Allen’s paintings, and even the boats at the water’s edge are powered by sail. 

Neither are his works a slavish record, an attempt to record in watercolour what might also have been viewed through the lens of a camera. Buildings are shifted or transposed to make a more attractive scene or to achieve a sense of balance that the local townscape has failed to provide, so that an attempt to stand where the artist must have stationed himself is frequently doomed to failure.