This catalogue brings together one hundred years of British Painting, from 1880 – 1980. Women are at the forefront: the essential process of rewriting their work into the narrative continues.
This catalogue brings together one hundred years of British Painting, from 1880 – 1980. Women are at the forefront: the essential process of rewriting their work into the narrative continues.
This catalogue examines the ways in which Modern British artists of the interwar period engaged with private and public spaces. The publication begins by exploring the private realms of artists, as many retreated to planting and painting their own gardens in the wake of the First World War. But while some withdrew, other artists sought pleasure and escapism, and amidst the rise of new technologies and popular entertainment, public gardens became arenas for a modern experience which they strove to capture.
Moreover, this catalogue explores the blurring of boundaries between private and public spaces, as the car and other modes of transport opened up areas of the countryside beyond the orbit of the railways. And then there were the houses and gardens of estates such as Garsington Manor – brought into the public eye by artists who attended the gatherings of the great chatelaine and salonnière, Lady Ottoline Morrell. So perhaps these worlds of private and public were not mutually exclusive, after all.
‘Drawings’ is a collaborative venture combining two exhibitions that have been timed to coincide: British Drawings: 1890-1990 at Sotheran’s, and Drawings 1990-2022 at Purdy Hicks Gallery. Both shows emphasise the importance of drawing to artists of the last 120 years: though many of the artists have used myriad other art forms, they have invariably returned to the honesty of drawing, time and time again.
The artists reflect their times. The artists from 1890-1980 are very much associated with strong schools of thought. One school in particular, the Slade School of Fine Art, dominates. Its rigorous process of drawing underpins much that we see, but is of course interpreted differently artist by artist. There was most definitely a British School, and in terms of drawing its greatest, though largely unacknowledged, triumph can be found in the remarkable works produced by the artists of the British School at Rome with their use of drawing techniques dating back to the Renaissance.This catalogue contains outstanding examples by Winifred Knights, Evelyn Gibbs, Anne Newland, Thomas Monnington, Robert Austin, Alan Sorrell and Reginald Brill. Slade student Winifred Knights exemplified the teachings of Henry Tonks, (Professor of Fine Art at the Slade from 1918 to 1930), with her observation of nature and meticulous methodology, working through endless studies, which were in turn painstakingly transferred to create finished works. Gilbert Spencer, another of the Professor’s students, recalled how Tonks talked of dedication, the privilege of being an artist, that to do a bad drawing was like living with a lie, and he proceeded to implant these ideals by ruthless and withering criticism. I remember once coming home and feeling like flinging myself under a train, and Stan telling me not to mind as he did it to everyone.
Methodology aside, many of the artists in this catalogue share common traits – an obsession with the minutiae of nature, an unbreakable attachment to landscape, an immersion in the narrative tradition, and an inability to resist humour and affection for the quirky and mundane.
By the end of John Cecil Stephenson’s art school training – first a scholarship to Leeds Art School then to The Royal College of Art – he was in a position to produce, in a pro – fessional capacity, still lives, landscapes and portraits. Like many painters of his generation, who had received similarly conventional instruction, he became a competent teacher, appointed in 1922, as Head of Art at The Northern Polytechnic. In this mould Stephenson might have remained a largely undistinguished painter – but in the early 1930s he found him – self at the centre of a group of artists with avant-garde credentials, and his own art underwent a remarkable transformation. By 1934 he was exhibiting groundbreaking works such as Mask (CAT. 7), at the 7 & 5 Society, and in 1937 was a key contributor to the watershed publication and exhibition Circle, where his work was showcased alongside that of luminaries such as Kazimir Malevich, Le Corbusier, Fernand Léger, Alberto Giacometti and Pablo Picasso. What led Stephenson to become, in the words of the celebrated art critic Herbert Read, ‘one of the earliest artists in the country to develop a completely abstract style’? His remarkable journey from figurative art to abstraction is brilliantly recounted in Peyton Skipwith’s essay John Cecil Stephenson, Pioneer of Abstraction.
Between March 1919 and November 1965, John Cecil Stephenson lived in London at No. 6 Mall Studios, off Tasker Road, Hampstead. As the father figure of what Read christened ‘a nest of gentle artists’, his next door neighbours included, during the course of the decade leading up to WW2, Barbara Hepworth, John Skeaping, Ben Nicholson and Henry Moore. Such fertile ground was further enriched by visits from artists fleeing persecution – including Piet Mondrian, László Moholy-Nagy and Alexander Calder – just a few of the many internationally acclaimed artists who whilst passing through London formed part of the art set who congregated around Read’s house at No. 3 Mall Studios.
Unusual amongst British regional galleries, the Laing Art Gallery was gifted to the people of Newcastle without a collection of its own. Alexander Laing was not a connoisseur or collector, and when he wrote to the Newcastle Corporation in 1900 offering to provide the building, he was confident that by the liberality of the inhabitants it would soon be supplied with pictures and statuary for the encouragement and development of British Art.
Precisely as Laing had anticipated, the intervening 120 years have seen the Gallery, through a series of gifts, bequests and purchases, accumulate one of the finest regional collections of fine and decorative art in the country. Changing displays highlight various aspects of the collection, and it is invigorating to be working with Liss Llewellyn once again on an exhibition that draws upon some of its strongest elements of 19th and 20th Century British art.
Over the past years, I and my colleagues in the art team have made a conscious attempt to address the omissions and erasures that are inherent in public art collections like that of the Laing Art Gallery and indeed within the canon of British art itself. With a particular focus on gender, this has manifested itself in a series of exhibitions, redisplays of the permanent collection and a refocusing of our acquisitions policy. It is therefore opportune that we are able to work in partnership with Liss Llewellyn on WOW: Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn have long made it their mission to encourage the reappraisal of some of the less well-known figures of 20th-century art ñ who more often than not are women. In particular, their impressive publications and exhibitions have brought many women artists more mainstream attention.
Liss Llewellyn have drawn together over fifty works on paper from private collections. The selection includes a wide variety of works in a range of styles and of out- standing quality. The artists Vanessa Bell, Hilda Carline, Ithell Colquhoun, Winifred Knights and Paule VÈzelay are all represented, as well as other accomplished but less well-known artists. WOW will be shown concurrently with Challenging Convention which focuses on the work of Laura Knight, Gwen John, Vanessa Bell and Dod Procter.
As an artist Finney was ambitious he strove throughout his career to create a vision that would be enduring. His decade long apprenticeship at art school connected him with the aesthetic sensibility of the most celebrated masters of the past and whilst Finney would never have any illusion that he was their equal, there is a touch of a modern day Vermeer in Amy Ironing (the painting used as the cover image of this catalogue). And Finney’s landscapes have the same graphic charge as those much loved watercolours of Ravilious which so evocatively capture the peculiarities of the different counties of Britain. In contrast to these, Finney’s languid nocturnes, such as Haymarket by Night, have all the aching loneliness of an Edward Hopper, whilst his domestic interiors have passages that resonate the same sense of intimacy as an Edward Vuillard.
Many of the artists in this catalogue had a particularly strong attachment to gardens and gardening ñ taking their activities as plantsmen and plantswomen as seriously as they took their art. Charles Mahoney shared his unbridled enthusiasm for plants with Edward Bawden, Geoffrey Rhoades, John Nash and Evelyn Dunbar who swapped cuttings with each other by post. Evelyn Dunbar, along with Charles Mahoney and John Nash, produced
books on the subject. And most of Harry Bushís oeuvre evolved around painting and repainting his garden in the London suburbs of SW19.
No account of 20th Century British art can overlook the numerous works of the period that were essentially ìreligiousî in their content. Art, Faith & Modernity examines this question in Paul Lissë and Alan Powersí essays and demonstrates the wide range of expression in more than 175 colour reproductions.
Anchored by Alan Powerís defining essay, Art Faith and Modernity presents a poignant argument ñ both visual and cerebral ñ for a reassessment of the important place that religious art continued to occupy in 20th century Britain. Art, Faith & Modernity is part of Liss Llewellynís on-going programme of exhibitions, produced in partnership with museums and cultural institutions, which seeks to reappraise some of the unsung heroines and and heroes of Modern British art.
Ever since Linda Nochlin asked in 1971, Why have there been no great women artists? art history has been probing the female gaze. Through scholarship and exhibitions, readings have been put in place to counter prevailing assumptions that artistic creativity is primarily a masculine affair. 50/50 functions as a corrective to the exclusion of women from the ëmasterí narratives of art. It introduces fifty artworks by known and lesser-known women outstanding works that speak out.
Fifty commentaries by fifty different writers bring out each artworkís unique story ñ sometimes from an objective art historical perspective and sometimes from an entirely personal point of view ñ thereby creating a rich and colourful diorama. This exhibition does not, however, attempt to present a survey or to address all the arguments around the history of women and art. Anthologies are of necessity incomplete, and many remarkable imaginations are not here represented.
Women artists have been set apart from male artists not only to their own disadvantage but also to the detriment of British art. While there were some improvements for women to access an artistic career in the twentieth century in terms of patronage, economics and critical attention ñ all the things that confer professional status ñ women had the least of everything. By showcasing just a few of the remarkable works produced, this exhibition draws attention to the fact that a vision of British twentieth century art closer to a 50/50 balance would not only provide a truer account, but also a more vivid and meaningful narrative.
In many ways Hagedornís career both reflects and is part of wider tendencies in art, for example, in his retreat from radical modernism in the years following the First World War, which reflects the wider ëReturn to Orderí manifested in the work of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Andre Derain and Gino Severini on the continent, and artists such as Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Edward Wadsworth in Britain. His watercolours of the 1920s encapsulate the search for solace in the landscape that appears in the work of so many others of his generation. These works have a distinctive clarity and call to mind Paul Nashís question of whether it was possible to ëGo Modern and Be Britishí. As an outsider, Hagedorn was not weighed down by such a sense of tradition. In the same period he was also designing eye-catching posters that patriotically called on their viewers to ëBuy Britishí (CAT. 41) applying the lessons of European modernism to commercial advertising for the Empire Marketing Board.
Evansí strikingly large watercolours (they typically measure over one metre in height or breadth), span two decades, (from the late 1960s to the late 1980s). While powerfully evoking the period charm of the glam-rock era, Evans showed a conscious awareness of the shifting political landscape around him. His compositions are characterised by a kaleidoscopic vision of Thatcherís Britain: an era of urban redevelopment, the Falklands War, industrial unrest, nuclear power, and the Cold War. Transition is everywhere: new roads carve their way through the countryside; fighter jets cast their shadows across the landscape; the scars left by industrial plants, pylons and landfill permeate throughout.
Instantly recognisable with their distinctive colour-coordinated covers, the eight volumes which make up War Pictures by British Artists were published by the Oxford University Press some 75 years ago. Created to achieve wider appreciation of the artworks commissioned by the War Artistsí Advisory Committee (WAAC), the eight themed pocket books played an important role in how the war was perceived by those living through it and how it would be remembered by future generations. ëWhat did it look like? they will ask in 1981, and no amount of description or documentation will answer themí; so wrote Kenneth Clark in the unsigned text introducing the original series.
This new publication is the third in a series of Liss Llewellyn projects on war art.
Between 1918 and 1970 Charles Cundall (1890-1971) exhibited nearly two hundred and fifty pictures at the Royal Academy and a further one hundred and seventy-five at the New English Art Club. †One hundred and forty-nine of his oil paintings ñ and countless works on paper ñ found their way into British public collections.† Statistics alone do not argue that an artist is important but it is surprising that this is the first publication on Cundallís life and workÖ. In two genres Cundall excelled ñ he was a master of painting crowd scenes ñ whether at Irish cattle markets or sporting events such as Derby Day. He was also a master of painting industrial scenes, with compositions spanning half a century recording†sites in England, Scotland, Wales and Greece.†
The rediscovery of this important collection of works by Evelyn Dunbar is a particularly engaging story. When in September 2012 the BBC Antiques Roadshow was held at Cawdor Castle, amongst the dolls, items of furniture and bric-a-brac that were brought by the queues of people waiting in the inevitable rain was a painting by Dunbar. It was the kind of moment that the television producers must cherish. The Neo-Romantic painting entitled ìAutumn and the Poetî (1960) had been brought to the roadshow by a relation of the artist and after it was appraised by Rupert Maas before the cameras it was sold and subsequently donated, through the initiative of LISS LLEWELLYN, to Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery. Ordinarily this outcome might have been the happy ending to a story, but in this case it was only the beginning. None of the works in the collection had previously been recorded, and so it is a remarkable discovery underpinning her position as one of the most significant female figurative artists working in Britain during the twentieth century.
Kenneth Rowntree has always been highly regarded by those familiar with his work. The essays in this catalogue, which embrace new research and scholarship, reveal him to be an artist of great scope and variety. His early work reflects the inspiration and creative dialogue that came out of his friendship with Eric Ravilious (1903ñ1942) on account of whom Rowntree moved to Great Bardfield during the 1940s. During this period he was particularly preoccupied with Kenneth Clarkís Recording Britain projectÖ. At the end of the war he joined the teaching staff at the Royal College of Art. In 1951 he was commissioned to undertake murals for the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion for the Festival of Britain. As Professor of Fine Art in Newcastle (1959ñ1980) he was at the epicentre of an important northern school of modernism that revolved around his friends Victor Pasmore (1908ñ1988) and Richard Hamilton (1922ñ2011). Even in retirement, his work, in its return to figuration from abstraction, displays his consistent qualities of humour and inventiveness. Rowntreeís oeuvre is both influenced by and anticipates a wide variety of artistic styles, from Ravilious to David Hockney, from the Euston Road School to the Dadaism of Kurt Schwitters. His work, however, remains unmistakably his own.
This publication, which has been made possible entirely through the generosity of Tigger Hoare was prompted by the discovery of a complete set of Brangwynís Stations of the Cross, painted in oil, which originally hung in St Michaelís Abbey, Farnborough. The participation of the Diocese of London has added a dimension which Brangwyn himself would have relished. Although brought up a Catholic, his faith was a strong belief in Christian values rather than an adherence to one particular creed and he told a friend that ëLife here is nothing without God. The time comes when one has to leave it all, then one says to oneself what can I say I have done to please Him? In his own self-effacing way Brangwyn did much to please Him.
During his lifetime Brangwyn made large donations of his works to museums in the United Kingdom and abroad, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum, the William Morris Gallery, the Albertina in Vienna and the Gruuthuse in Bruges. As a result of this munificence, substantial drawings by Brangwyn, especially his celebrated large sheets in red and black chalk, only rarely appear on the market. Ö The endless extant sketches that he made on the backs of envelopes, letterheads and scraps of paper are evidence that for Brangwyn drawing was a compulsion. In her forthcoming catalogue raisonnÈ, Dr. Libby Horner has recorded over three thousand drawings by Brangwyn. Ö The drawings that became Esserís collection, which have lain hidden for over half a century, were made up of works that Brangwyn, with characteristic modesty, had left in his studio with a written instruction, ëmost of this lot destroyí. Never intended for presentation, they explore and resolve alternative compositions and the relation of figures to each other and to the space they occupy.
Unsung heroes aside, the greatest strength of this catalogue comes from the large number of remarkable works by women artists. This goes some way to redressing an imbalance: the story of 20th century British Art is told almost always through the work of male artists in spite of the fact that more women than men went to art school in the first half of the 20th century. The Liss Fine Art bias towards women is not intentional. Yet in the search for the best of the less familiar of 20th century British art a disproportionate number of works by women artists come to the fore. This catalogue includes outstanding works by Margaret Gere, Clare Leighton, Kathleen Guthrie, Rachel Reckitt, Barbara Jones, Mary Adshead, Evelyn Dunbar, Paule Vezelay, Muriel Pemberton and Dorothy Mahoney.
This catalogue presents a view of the First World War through a multifarious record of two and three dimensional works of art: paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, reliefs, posters, postcards, photographs, silhouettes and ceramics appear in the following pages. The material has been grouped into 14 subsections under the general headings of Combat, The Home Front and The Aftermath. These groupings highlight the themes that inspired both the fine and popular arts, although some are looser in association than others, and none are mutually exclusive. The introduction gives a more general survey of the underlying factors that influenced or determined the visual responses to the First World War.†Although outside the remit of this catalogue, the accompanying exhibition includes other†wartime objects from the collection of David and Judith Cohen, including trench art, commemorative ware, sweetheart brooches, games, puzzles and miniatures.