James Bateman's Sketch Design for a Westmorland Farm seems to have been painted in the autumn, in the late afternoon. Seven cows splash through a muddy farm yard to be milked in a small, white-washed barn, as the farmer watches nearby. All is as it has been for centuries, a stone farmhouse and barn, slate roofs, a rocky stream, with more stones forming a curved wall surrounding the yard. Long shadows fall across the barn and yard, and shafts of sunlight pierce a darkening sky and bathe green verges and the undulating hills in the background. The mellow tones and depiction of light in this sketch show the painter as a colourist in the tradition of John Constable.
James Bateman, a farmer's son, was born in Kendal, Westmorland (now part of Cumbria) in the Lake District in 1893. Brought up in the area, he retained a special feeling and love for this wild county and, like Wordsworth, the flavour of the lakes imbued nearly all his later work.
An academic traditionalist and a fine craftsman, Bateman planned his paintings with infinite care, producing a satisfying completeness, with great attention to detail and finish. He experimented with unusual perspectives, but never with any form of abstraction. He found his subjects in the rural tradition-pastoral scenes, paintings of country stock auctions and farm yards, cattle and horses. This painting is typical, a celebration of English country life-domesticity and man's gentle farming, set in the tamed hills of the Lake District.
Bateman moved to Cheltenham and taught at the local art school from 1922 to 1928, and later at the Hammersmith School of Art. He was a prolific exhibitor at the Royal Academy, London, from 1924 until his death in London in 1959.