Edge of Abruzzi; Boat with three people on a lake, 1924-30

Winifred Knights

Exhibition: ‘True to Life, British Realist Painting in the 1920s & 1930s’, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1 July – 29 October 2017. Cat. 54. ’50/50; Fifty British Women Artists 1900 ‚Äì 1950′, Worshipful Company of Mercers (3rd December 2018 – 23rd March, 2019); The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds (9th April, 2019 – 27th July, 2019).’For Real: British Realists from the 20s and 30s’, Museum MORE, Gorssel (September 15th, 2019 ‚Äì January 5th, 2020).

Literature; Patrick Elliot & Sacha Llewellyn; True to Life, British Realist Painting in the 1920s & 1930s, July 2017, ISBN 978 1 911054 05 4, Fig.20 and Cat. 54, page 22, 23 and page 99.

I had seen reproductions of Edge of Abruzzi; Boat with three people on

a lake many times and had even visited Piediluco, the small town near

Rome from where my mother drew her inspiration for this picture. But

I only got to see the original artwork in 2016 when it formed part of the

Winifred Knights exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

I returned to view it on several occasions, its immense beauty

having a very powerful effect on me. Even when surrounded by many,

many visitors I always fell under its quiet spell as it revealed yet another

intricate detail. I feel sad and joyful at the same time that I have, at last,

seen the painting in the flesh’ ‚Äì sad that I will probably never get to view

it again, but happy that I have had the opportunity to study and enjoy

this most wonderful work at close hand.

When I was a schoolboy, I was slightly aware of there being

something exceptional about my mother, but I was totally ignorant of

her true abilities. Now, at the end of my life, I am delighted to have

learnt of her tremendous talent and been able to appreciate so much of

her work, from childhood sketches through to her major pictures. She

had just begun to paint again – after a twelve year hiatus – when she died

so tragically young at the age of forty-seven.

Commentary by John Monnington (b.1934), a retired precision engineer. He is the son of Winifred Knights and Sir Walter Thomas Monnington (PRA), and acts as archivist of their works.

La Cathédrale Engloutie, circa 1950

Ithell Colquhoun

An aerial view of two adjoining  stone circles with out-lying monoliths, standing on a small island. One stone circle lies half in and half out of the water, whilst the other stands fully in the water. The painting was inspired by the stone circles on the islet of Er-Lannic. When built, the monuments stood on a little hillside, but are now half-hidden by the waters of the Gulf of Morbihan, Brittany. Archaeologists agree that this is due to a rise in sea level that has occurred since prehistoric times. Colquhoun offers an alternative suggestion: perhaps the daily immersion of this temple, dedicated to the powers of both sea and earth was intended by its builders.’ (Cornish Banner, June 1978).The title is a reference to the Prelude for piano by Claude Debussy. The piece is a musical depiction of a legendary cathedral, submerged and in ruins beneath the water, which mysteriously rises from the waves and into the sparkling light of day, then sinks again into the depths.Rocky Island (1969) is the reworked counterpart to part of this painting.

Lines in Space, No. 11, 1950

Paule Vezelay

Cotton and nylon thread box construction

Self Portrait as Little Miss Muffet, June 1918

Winifred Knights

A pen & ink and watercolour illustration depicting Little Miss Muffet (June 1918) reveals a strong sense of design which marks a clear departure for Knight’s  more conventional, earlier Art-Nouveau-inspired compositions,  such as Goblin Market.  Knights portrays herself as the protagonist, the horizontal vertical strips of her dress offset by her headscarf plain field of colour. The treatment of face and hands ‚Äì elongated and symmetrical, with strong outline and an emphasis on the underlying anatomical geometry – would now become a defining characteristic of her figurative work.

Winifred Knights, Sasha Llewellyn, Lund Humphries, 2016.p 45

Arnold Mason, Portrait of Winifred Knights

(Royal Collection), 1919

Matador, c. 1955

Rachel Reckitt

Reckitt studied wood engraving at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London from 1933 to 1937, where she was taught by the School’s founder, Iain Macnab. Although painted in oil, this work has all the hard-edge stylisation of a print, and stays true to the mission of the School in its rendering of ordinary subject matter with great movement and vitality.

Reckitt travelled extensively in Europe, and many of the works she produced were influenced by her journeys in France, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal. A painting in the Salford Museum & Art Gallery of a Farm House in Catalonia shows that Reckitt was in Spain during the thirties, and she would return in the mid 50’s to paint scenes of matadors and bullfighting. A painting in the Museum of Somerset by her also portrays the castration of a bull.

 

Vase de fleurs devant un paysage

Paysage, Three Horses, 1929

Paule Vezelay

Exhibited: New Orlieans, date unknown

Buste feminin aux deux oiseaux, circa 1952

An example of the same piece is in the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Study for the Marriage at Cana, circa 1923

Winifred Knights

Exhibited: Winifred Knights, Dulwich Picture Gallery, 2016, curated by Sacha Llewellyn

Literature: Sacha Llewellyn Winifred Knights 1899-1947 (London: Lund Humphries in association with Dulwich Picture Gallery, 2016); Winifred Knights 1899-1947 (exh. Catalogue The Fine Art Society PLC and Liss Fine Art in Association with the British School at Rome 1995, p. 53)

The ‘Marriage at Cana’, started in 1922, is the principal painting produced by Knights during her time at the British School at Rome.


It depicts the miracle of the water turned into wine, (related in John 2:1-12). The setting for the painting is the Borghese Gardens adjoining the British School at Rome. The setting is also reminiscent of the background devised by Piero delta Francesca for the fresco of ‘The Adoration of the True Cross’ in the Church of S.Francesco in Arezzo, visited by Knights prior to starting work on her own composition.


The artist includes herself among the guests, along side, in the earliest studies, Arnold Mason. Tom Monnington, who did not arrive at the British School at Rome until 1923, is included in later studies at the far end of the table, in effect next to Mason. As known rivals over Knights they clearly made an ill-suited pair for a marriage feast and Mason is subsequently omitted from the final composition.

The existence of numerous pencil, watercolour and oil studies demonstrate the meticulous thought and care that Knights put into the conception of this painting. In 1922 she wrote to her mother: ‘I have drawn 11 plates of melon, pink melon, 9 glasses of wine some empty, because they have run out, and 38 people.’

Winter, Artist’s Garden, 1953

Gwenda Morgan

The Dog Show, 1929

Tirzah Garwood-Ravilious

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, et al. Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p. 70.

In 1925, at the age of 17, Tirzah Garwood enrolled at Eastbourne School of Art, where, under the
instruction of her young tutor, Eric Ravilious, (whom she would marry five years later), she excelled in
wood engraving. Her satirical scenes of bourgeois life in 1920’s Britain explored themes such as bathers
on Eastbourne beach, window cleaners and plump ladies shopping in Kensington. By 1927, she was
already exhibiting and attracting attention for her work, and received prestigious commissions from
the BBC and the Curwen Press. The Crocodile and The Dog Show were commissioned in 1929 by Oliver
Simon for a projected but never completed calendar to have been published by the Curwen Press. Both
engravings, however, were shown at the English Wood Engraving Society’s 1929 exhibition to critical
acclaim. The Queen (25th December 1929) compared the puckish humour’ of Garwood’s work to that
of Honoré-Victorin Daumier, describing The Dog Show as wicked’ and The Crocodile as that amusing bit
of observation’, while Apollo (January 1930) wrote, Miss Tirzah Garwood is, as one expects it of her by
now, intensely amusing, especially in The Dog Show’.

Les Pierres (Paysage) circa 1936

 

Black Eyes and Lemonade, Joness 1951 exhibition of popular art and design at the Whitechapel Gallery

Barbara Jones

Literature: Artmonsky pp.63-72.

In 1951 a colourful and vibrant exhibition of popular art opened at the Whitechapel Gallery as part of the Festival of Britain. A talking lemon, an edible model of St Paul’s Cathedral, a fireplace in the shape of a dog and a life-size wax model of a Rabbi, were amongst a plethora of other extraordinary objects on display.
Entitled Black Eyes and Lemonade, after a Thomas Moore poem Intercepted Letters or The Two-Penny Post Bag (1813), it presented everyday objects made in Britain, normally excluded from museums and art galleries.
The 1951 exhibition was organised by artist, designer and writer Barbara Jones. It was divided in categories such as Home, Birth-Marriage-Death, Man’s Own Image and Commerce & Industry, reflecting Jones’s ideas on popular art and museum culture, questioning the cultural values attached to handmade and machine made objects.


Poster designs for Black Eyes and Lemonade, Jones’s 1951 exhibition of popular art and design at the Whitechapel Gallery.

Self Portrait, 1927

Evelyn Gibbs

Literature: Pauline Lucas, Evelyn Gibbs Artist & Traveller, Five Leaves, 2001, pp 21-31

Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.282.

Evelyn Gibbs’ Self-portrait, made whilst at the Royal College of Art in 1927, a year before she applied
for and won the coveted Rome Scholarship in Engraving, has much in common with, and might have
been inspired by, Henry Fuseli’s Self-portrait of 1770. Gibbs confidently shows herself at the start of
the process of producing a drypoint, the blank copper etching plate on which she is working soon to
become the self-portrait we are looking at. The drypoint medium, (made with a needle to create a soft
burr giving a characteristic velvety appearance), was a more immediate method of printmaking than
etching (where acid is used to deepen the lines on the plate). Generally fewer prints can be pulled in
the case of drypoint as the plate gets too worn. An etching, such as The Road, might typically be made
in an edition of up to 50 prints.

The Road resulted in her election as associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, in 1929, the
year she won her Rome Scholarship. A review described it as a beautiful little etching “The Road”, with
it’s emotional significance ‚Äì two tramps, a man and a woman are sitting crouched by the roadside, their
heads upon their knees, utterly tired out – but the sunny road winds on through banked meadows away
over the country . . . this etching promises well for Miss Gibbs’ future, more even than her accomplished
line engravings.’

 

 

Drypoint is a more immediate method of printmaking than

etching, which requires acid to deepen the lines made on the surface

of the metal plate. In drypoint a drawing is made on the plate with an

drypoint needle, scratching the surface in such a way that a soft burr

is produced, giving a characteristic velvety appearance. Generally

only a few prints are made from the plate.

 

We are grateful to  Pauline Lucas and Todd Longstaffe-Gowan for assistance.

 

Woman with pigtails, head bowed, circa 1914

Milne was an important member of the direct carving revival during the early years of the 20th Century and was perhaps the first woman sculptor in England to be influenced by the modern movement. Although she stopped carving in stone in 1917, she contributed the preface to a monograph on Ivan Mestrovic in 1919 – a publication that helped to spread Mestrovic’s influence in Britain. In her later years Milne concentrated on metalwork and tapestry making in the Arts and Crafts manner.

Ellen and Her Children (BPL578), 1944

Clare Leighton

Ellen and Her Children was originally printed in an edition of 50 as part of Elizabeth Madox Roberts, The Time of Man(New York, The Viking Press),1944, page 351.

 

Portrait of the artists mother, Florence, on a bentwood rocking chair, c.1930 [HMO 797]

Evelyn Dunbar

Exhibited: Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, Pallant House Gallery, October 2015 – February 2016, cat 14.

Literature: Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2015, cat. 14, page 46.

Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.131.

Florence Dunbar, née Murgatroyd, was the daughter of a Bradford woolmaster. She met William Dunbar on one of his frequent visits to Bradford for textiles for his Reading bespoke tailoring and household linen business. They married in 1895. A tireless and green-fingered gardener, she also painted innumerable floral still lifes. Evelyn owed much to her unceasing encouragement. She died in 1944.

The Crocodile

Tirzah Garwood-Ravilious

In 1925, at the age of 17, Tirzah Garwood enrolled at Eastbourne School of Art, where, under the instruction of her young tutor, Eric Ravilious, (whom she would marry five years later), she excelled in wood engraving. Her satirical scenes of bourgeois life in 1920’s Britain explored themes such as bathers on Eastbourne beach, window cleaners and plump ladies shopping in Kensington. By 1927, she was already exhibiting and attracting attention for her work, and received prestigious commissions from the BBC and the Curwen Press. The Crocodile and The Dog Show were commissioned in 1929 by Oliver Simon for a projected but never completed calendar to have been published by the Curwen Press. Both engravings, however, were shown at the English Wood Engraving Society’s 1929 exhibition to critical acclaim. The Queen (25th December 1929) compared the puckish humour’ of Garwood’s work to that of Honoré-Victorin Daumier, describing The Dog Show as wicked’ and The Crocodile as that amusing bit of observation’, while Apollo (January 1930) wrote, Miss Tirzah Garwood is, as one expects it of her by now, intensely amusing, especially in The Dog Show’.

The original cartoon for The Deluge, 1920

Winifred Knights

The Deluge was Winifred Knights’
winning entry for the Prix de
Rome in 1920. On this full-size
cartoon, the lines are heavily
scored into the tracing paper
so that the outline could be
transferred onto the same size
canvas – now one of the prize
possessions of Tate Britain.

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, et al. Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p. 19.

Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.342.

Surreal Figures, 1946

Surreal Composition, circa 1945

Milking Practice with Artificial Udders, 1940

Evelyn Dunbar

Exhibited: Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, Pallant House Gallery, October 2015 – February 2016, cat 85.

WW2 – War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 78.


Literature: Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2015, cat. 85page 130.

WW2 – War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 78, page 118-119.

Llewellyn, Sacha, et al. Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p. 62.

In May 1940, Evelyn Dunbar, the only woman to receive a full-time salary from the War Artists’ Advisory
Committee (WAAC), was posted to Sparsholt Farm Institute, near Winchester, to paint Women’s Land
Army recruits in training. Painted around the time Dunbar was considering how to illustrate A Book of
Farmcraft, her painting Milking Practice with Artificial Udders (see overleaf) shows three novice Land Girls,
struggling to learn the rudiments of milking. The Land Girl in the middle has assumed the recommended
posture. The painting is squared for transfer – it is a study for the nearly identical finished painting in the
Imperial War Museum.

In Study for Women’s Land Army Dairy Training, operations have moved from artificial to real. Dunbar’s
perspective lines lead the viewer to the dairy wash-house beyond, itself the setting for Milking Practice
with Artificial Udders. The extensive colour notes would have served as an aide-memoire to guide her
when she returned to her studio in Rochester to work the sketch up. However, Dunbar appears to have
never completed this composition and she later used the same title Women’s Land Army Dairy Training for
a different WAAC commission. By September 1943, a quarter of the 80,000-strong Women’s Land Army
were involved in milking.


Self-portrait, 1920

Winifred Knights

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.269.

This self portrait dates to 1920 when Knights became the first women to win the Prix de Rome. Knights gave it  to her friend Marjory Allen, Baroness Allen of Hurtwood, Colin Gill’s sister, after Marjory had  accompanied Knights and Gill’s  on an expedition in the countryside north west of Rome, followed by visits to Viterbo, Orvieto, Assisi, Perugia and Florence. 

(Marjory was an English landscape architect and promoter of child welfare. In 1921 she married Clifford Allen, a leading member of the Independent Labour Party who had been imprisoned as a conscientious objector in World War I. Marjory Allen worked as a landscape architect throughout the 1920s and 1930s and was elected the first fellow of the Institute of Landscape Architects in 1930).

During Knights’ first few months at the British School, Colin Gill introduced her to Rome and its historic sites and monuments, and together they attended fancy-dress balls, the Russian Ballet and Opera, visited flower markets, ate in Gill’s favourite restaurant at Trajan’s Forum and made trips to Tivoli and the seaside. 

Knights had striking features and portraits of her were made by Colin Gill, Arnold Mason, and  Tom Monnington, amongst many, and  portrait busts by sculptors David Evans, Professor Gerard, and Alfred Hardiman, 

Arnold Mason, Portrait of Winifred Knights, 1919

Leaving the Munitions Works, 1919

Winifred Knights
When peace was declared ​the majority of ​munitions had to be decommissioned. In this picture although the work force is predominantly female the return of the male population is evident. ​

Girl in a Garden, late 1940’s

Frances Richards

Frances Richards initially attended the Burslem School of Art 1920-1924, and later became a pottery designer at the Paragon China Company. From 1928-1939 Richards worked as a teacher in the textile department at the Camberwell School of Art and throughout her life she experimented with embroidery amongst other mediums

Mel Gooding wrote that her work though appears to have been little influenced by her husband’s painting-‘for over fifty years her own quiet and formalised figurative art was unaffected by her daily closeness to the extravagant and sometimes violent drama of (Ceri) Richards’ paintings’

Reigate and its Environments, late 1930’s

Margaret Duncan

Exhibited: ‘For Real: British Realists from the 20s and 30s’, Museum MORE, Gorssel (September 15th, 2019 ‚Äì January 5th, 2020).

Little is known about Margaret Duncan, other than that she worked

as an art teacher at Huyton College (1935–1947), moving from there

to St Katharine’s College, Tottenham. She exhibited a painting, The

Annunciation, at the Royal Academy in 1941. This painted screen,

presumably for domestic use, may be a little earlier than her RA exhibit,

although its deliberately pastoral feel – no vehicles or other modern

conveniences are shown – makes it hard to be sure.

A preliminary sketch labelled “Design for Mural Decoration” helps

with the identification of features. Duncan probably took her view

from the tower of St Mary’s Church, to the east of Reigate, looking

roughly north-west across the town but moving the North Downs to

form a backdrop. On the right is the abandoned chalk pit biting into

the flank of Reigate Hill, with Colley Hill and Box Hill to its left (west).

Prominent among the town’s buildings are the former Town Hall of

c.1728 and the gothic gatehouse folly of 1777 on the site of Reigate’s

Norman castle. In the left foreground is Reigate Park (labelled on the

sketch). One curiosity is that the prominent building beyond, set in a

sunken formal garden, is there labelled “Reigate Priory”. However, this is

clearly not that, but apparently Cherchefelle, a five-bay house of c.1770

in Chart Lane, close to St Mary’s Church. Did Duncan assemble this view

from a series of individual sketches and inadvertently get two buildings

muddled up?

Commentary by Paul Stamper, landscape historian, specialising in the post-Roman countryside. After a career with the Victoria County History and English Heritage, he now runs his own heritage consultancy — Paul Stamper Heritage.

Exhibited: Sanctuary, Artist-Gardeners, 1919-39, Garden Museum, London, 25th February – 5 April, 2020

Literature: Christopher Woodward, Sanctuary: Artist-Gardeners, 1919–1939, published by Liss Llewellyn, 2020

Penny for the Guythe thought that all war is caused by the faceless money men of the City, 1940

Gladys Hynes

Exhibited: 50/50; Fifty British Women Artists 1900 ‚Äì 1950, Worshipful Company of Mercers (3rd December 2018 – 23rd March, 2019); The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds (9th April, 2019 – 27th July, 2019).’For Real: British Realists from the 20s and 30s’, Museum MORE, Gorssel (September 15th, 2019 ‚Äì January 5th, 2020).

The presence of my great aunt Gladys Hynes has ebbed and flowed through my life in various ways, few more cogently than the dietrologia – as the Italians say, the schema of what lies behind things – of this painting. Which, since I have been a war reporter, is unsurprising: it depicts a profiteer from warfare; the iniquitous city gent, a fearsome nonentity, in pin stripes with mechanical arm, grenade and bulging codpiece – his masculinity made base.

In addition to the depicted title, an inscription (possibly by Aunt Gladys) on the back reads:

“Penny for the Guy – the thought that all war is caused by

the faceless money men of the City.”

The same figure recurs in one of Hynes’ meticulous but appositely mystical line illustrations to the Cantos nos. XVII to XXVII by her friend Ezra Pound ‚Äì that to Canto XIX’.[112]

Aesthetically, Gladys defies utterly that dictum whereby artists are, as Delacroix put it, “fossilized into schools”. She is singular in every way, as she was in her life. Gladys and her sisters – older Eileen, my grandmother, and younger Sheelah – were Irish republicans, suffragettes and socialists, and also pacifist in a way that seemed to apply to everywhere apart from Ireland (they supported the revolution and opposed the treaty) and republican Spain. And there is searing pacifism in this picture, though not of the kind the war artists had brought home in 1918.

Painting in Britain and Germany was famously haunted by World War One and its aftermath, but Gladys here addresses the just war’: its sequel, as early as 1940, when Europe ‚Äì apparently doomed ‚Äì was yet to learn the worst about the Third Reich.Her subject is not war or the pity of war, but those of whom Bob Dylan wrote in his great Masters of War: ‚ÄúYe that build the big guns‚Äù. Gladys’ Master of War’ wears a pallid mask, evocative of James Ensor, to give him oblique indifference; ‚ÄúYe that hide behind walls / Ye that hide behind desks‚Äù, wrote Dylan. He is bane and demoniac, while Gladys was a devout Catholic.What this man does makes even the Angels weep; for Dylan, ‚Äúeven Jesus would never forgive what you do‚Äù.

In this way, Gladys’ painting is of, yet transcends, its time. Looking at the painting now, she depicts those who grew rich from every shell that fell on the Sarajevo I reported, under siege; the lucrative, sordid malevolence of fortunes made by those who ravaged Iraq while I worked there; those squalid billions laundered with impunity; proceeds from the carnage of drugs wars I write about, from Mexico and Colombia, snorted up Europe’s and America’s noses for kicks; every line of blood. It could be the money made from British weapons sold to Saudi Arabia that rain down on children in Yemen, or the American military-industrial-complex that crushed Latin America for most of my lifetime. Gladys paints this. She was an effervescent woman but also passionate, and wore her righteous rage as well as her poetic imagination in paint.

Post Scriptum: In June 2018, I arranged to meet the curator of this exhibition and catalogue for lunch, to discuss this painting. By the end of the same day, by pure serendipity and through an entirely different route, she had become its owner. So that this picture at least returns, as it were, to the family.

Commentary by Ed Vulliamy. Vulliamy has been a writer for the Guardian and Observer newspapers for over thirty years. He has won every major prize in British journalism for his reporting from Bosnia, Italy, Iraq and Mexico. He is the author of America: War Along the Borderline (2010, the Ryszard Kapuscinski Award), The War is Dead, Long Live the War, Bosnia: The Reckoning (2012) and When Words Fail: A Life with Music, War And Peace (2018).

IN 1940 10 May: Winston Churchill becames prime minister of the coalition government; The Butler Act created free secondary education to the age of 15.

The series of ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ propaganda posters by ‘Fougasse’ was published by the Ministry of Information

The War Artists’ Advisory Committee of the U.K. Ministry of Information opens its first exhibition of War Pictures by British Artists to the public at the otherwise-evacuated National Gallery in London.

Walt Disney’s animated movie Fantasia realeased.

Mexican painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera remarried in San Francisco.

Cecil Beaton is among the photographers commissioned by the U.K. Ministry of Information to undertake war photography.

Henry Moore is commissioned as a war artist and produces drawings of Londoners sleeping in the London Underground while sheltering from The Blitz.

Anthony Blunt’s Artistic Theory in Italy 1450‚Äì1600 is published. This year he is recruited to work for MI5 while simultaneously spying for the NKVD.

ARTWORKS CREATED IN 1940:

Vanessa Bell – Leonard Woolf

Clive Branson – Noreen and Rosa

Charles Cundall – The Withdrawal from Dunkirk, June 1940

Salvador Dal√≠ – Slave Market with the Disap

Edward Hopper Gas

Frida Kahlo – The Dream

Conroy Maddox – The Strange Country

Henri Matisse – Le R√™ve de 1940

Roberto Matta – Dark Light

John Piper – Coventry Cathedral

Eric Ravilious ‚Äì A Warship in Dock

Graham Sutherland – Black Landscape


√âdouard Vuillard,  (b. 1868), Paul Klee, (b. 1879), Colin Gill,  (b. 1892) and  Eric Gill, English(b. 1882) died in 1940

Constalation, circa 1936

This dates to the period that Man Ray made the iconic photographic portrait of Dora Maar

The pointilliste technique might have been inspired by Picasso’s earlier use of a similar experimental style

Picasso The Happy Family, circa 1917, (Picasso Museum Paris)

Lotus Mountain, 1972

Exhibited: The Henri Gallery, Washington DC

The painting retains an exhibition label from the Henri Gallery, Washington, DC. The Henri Gallery was the preeminent gallery in DC. During the third quarter of the 20th century featuring up and coming artists many associated with the “Color Field” school in DC.

This painting appears to relate to and possibly was part of 22 Others –  a conceptual art project created by Mary Beth Edelson between 1971 and 1973 with the intention to both expand the artist’s connections with her community by inviting others into her art making process and experimenting with Carl Jung’s construct of the collective unconscious

Woman in profile, seated by a window, circa 1905

Marjorie Lilly was born in London and studied at the Slade, she met Walter Sickert in 1917 when she had a studio in the same building as him. They became closely associated and she used to accompany him on his quest to paint the perfect interior. Lilly exhibited widely at the Baillie Gallery, London Salon, New English Art Club and Royal Society of British Artists. Sadly, much of her work was destroyed when he r flat was bombed during the Second World War. Lilly wrote ‘Sickert: The Painter and his Circle’, which was published in 1971.

 

The Resort, 1950

Barbara Jones

Exhibited: The V&A, London, First Exhibition of The Society of Mural Painters, organised by The Arts Council, 1950 (label to reverse)

Literature: Artmonsky, Ruth, A Snapper Up of Unconsidered Triffles, A tribute to Barbara Jones, illustrated p 114

A time traveller visiting mid twentieth-century Britain would discover a

painted world. Restaurants, department stores, schools and hospitals were

filled with murals painted by the best artists of the day. Aside from a few

celebrated examples (think Rex Whistler at Tate Britain), most of these

have disappeared, and in many cases not even a photograph survives. This

is true of the numerous murals painted by Barbara Jones, but occasionally

we find a treasure that has escaped the general destruction, whether a

mural itself or a study, as this seems to be. The Resort, which was shown

at the First Exhibition of the Society of Mural Painters (the Victoria and

Albert Museum, 1950), may have been related to Jones’ preparations for

the Festival of Britain in 1951, but almost seventy years later it stands by

itself as a work of great individuality and charm. Jones was taught by Eric

Ravilious, and there are hints here of her teacher’s preoccupations with

nautical design, improbably delicate structures and idiosyncratic wheeled

vehicles. Her imaginative world has its own style, however, and its own

distinctive palette. As so often with Jones, we see perspective and scale

treated with a childlike playfulness, but it is clear that a sophisticated

visual intelligence is at work. There’s a constant back and forth of dark

against light, light against dark, and a beguiling clarity of vision. We

sense that the scene, though in no way realistic, is real, and we share the

curiosity and awe of the children admiring the deep sea diver as the ice

cream seller looks on.

Commentary by James Russell, independent art historian and curator, most notably of exhibitions at Dulwich Picture Gallery devoted to Eric Ravilious (2015) and Edward Bawden (2018).

L’Animal, 1929

Paule Vezelay

Born in Bristol, Marjorie Watson-Williams moved to Paris in 1926 and

assumed a much more glamorous name, Paule Vézelay. She felt that her

original name was too long and old-fashioned and not suited to the

modernity of her work, and she loved the Romanesque abbey at Vézelay.

But it also had the effect of deracinating her. When the Tate came to

organise a ninetieth birthday tribute exhibition in 1983, Ronald Alley

wrote in the catalogue that “there are many who either do not know her

work or assume her to be a French artist who probably died some years ago”.

L’animal was painted in 1929, the year she got together with the

Surrealist artist André Masson (they were engaged at one time, but she

broke off the relationship). She was also friendly with Jean Arp and

Sophie Tauber-Arp. Her work of the late 1920s is semi-automatic and

abstract, featuring cursive linear motifs, but it subsequently became more

geometrical and in 1934 she joined the international group Abstraction-

Création.

She counts as one of the earliest and most imaginative British abstract

painters; her interest in abstraction pre-dates that of Barbara Hepworth and

Ben Nicholson and precedes the famous Unit One exhibition and book of

1934. Her incorporation of thread and wire into her work at that time are a

major contribution to the art of the period.

In a BBC television interview in 1984 (Women of Our Century),

Germaine Greer did her best to steer the artist towards certain answers (“In

England you usually exhibited as M. Watson-Williams. Did you do this on

purpose?‚Äù) but Vézelay looked puzzled by this line of questioning (‚ÄúWell, it

was my family name.”). She preferred to talk about her work.

Commentary by Patrick Elliott, Chief Curator at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

The Potato Harvest

Winifred Knights

In this picture, Knights depicts herself
(foreground centre) transferring potatoes into a traditional clam. This was one of many
rural activities in which she participated while convalescing in
Worcestershire during the war.
Both
the arrangement of background colours into a flattened patchwork quilt
of contrasting colours and the frieze-like placing of foreground figures,  would become favourite compositional devices, as would the use of
motifs such as the ladder and haycocks.

Lines in Space, No. 42, 1964

Paule Vezelay

Lines in Space No 24, 1953

Paule Vezelay

Exhibited: Paule Vezelay, The Tate Gallery, London, February 23-May 22, 1983, 88: Paule Vezelay Paintings and Constructions, Annely Juda Fine Art, London, April 9-May 16, 1987, number 32.

Scene from the Book of Job, circa 1935

Helen Blair

 Exhibited: Kirkcaldie and Stains, Wellington, 1936

The death of Job’s sons ‚Äì ‚Äúbehold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead‚Äù ‚Äì is depicted by Helen (Nell’) Blair in a modern form of an almost Renaissance setting, with a biblical allegory in the foreground and scenery in the background. The collapsing walls provide a geometrical frame for the evocative expression of the fate of Job’s sons. We see the table at which they were eating and drinking before destruction arrived.

The stylised figures, and the biblical subject, suggest that the painting was influenced by the English Modernist movement, which included artists such as Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer, and there are similarities of composition with Winifred Knights’ The Marriage at Cana, which was widely reproduced in art journals of the period. Blair was recognised by contemporary critics as highly innovative and ‚Äúattacking the real problems of painting‚Äù.

Before Blair and her husband, the glass engraver John Hutton, left New Zealand for England in March 1936, they mounted an exhibition at Kirkcaldie and Stains, Wellington’s leading department store, in which Scene from the Book of Job was described by the local newspaper as ‚Äúintriguing‚Äù. Little is known about the life and work of Helen Blair since her arrival in England, but for this striking painting alone she deserves to be remembered.

Commentary by Lord King, who served as Governor of the Bank of England between 2003-2013.

Further research on Helen Blair is much needed. 

The research note below has kindly been provided by the artist’s daughter fills in some of the gaps about her life in England: 

She did many collages and sold a lot in local exhibitions in Cambridge, where she lived until her death in 1997. Her collages were mostly non-figurative (although sometimes one or two small images of people appeared in them), and small – around 40×60 cm. She wrote a book on Collage (photo attached) and was particularly interested in Kurt Schwitters. She also wrote many other books – on Rug weaving, Gemstone craft, Mosaics, Woven structures (cord, string and rope as art), etc. A busy and creative person!

We are grateful to Margaret Brentall  for the following notes which appear in – John Hutton; Artist and Glass Engraver (Art Alliance, 1986)

In March 1931, while painting and holding an occasional small exhibition, John Hutton met a New Zealand girl who had studied art in Paris. She was Helen Blair, the daughter of a judge, and once she came upon the scene a new chapter of life opened for him, a chapter in which art predominated and the years of legal endeavour faded into the background. Nell (as she was known) was bored; she missed the informal café life of Paris, the friendships and daily contacts with fellow artists, and hated the approved social round of Wellington. Conscious of a sense of artistic isolation, her encounter with an aspiring artist, as remote from the social set of Wellington as she felt herself to be, was noted in her diary, in which she recorded her early meetings with John Hutton, her marriage, and the trend of their life during the final New Zealand period and the first years in England. (p 24)

They met at a friend’s party, on 18 March 1931, and Nell’s diary entry in May of that year reveals that they were still constantly together. … All this week John and I have drawn and painted in the studio. Line, line, line means everything to him. For him line can express form, tone, colour and movement. I can’t quite accept it. He can draw but is at present too obsessed with technicalities. I have told him that I feel form is more important by itself than by shadow. We have argued incessantly. (p.25).

On 11 September 1934 Helen Blair and John Hutton were married in St Paul’s Cathedral, Wellington. Before leaving New Zealand [for England, in March 1936] John and Nell held a joint exhibition in collaboration with a friend, Corrie Cameron, who had studied art in Paris with Nell. The lounge of Kirkcaldie and Stains, the principal department store in Wellingtonl, was the stage for the exhibition. 

The exhibition received the following reviews:

An exhibition of the recent works of John Hutton, Helen Blair and H C Cameron was held in Krikcaldie and Stains’ lounge early in the month. The works shown were in the modern idiom, being a selection of oils, water-colours, drawings and woodcuts in experimental techniques [Job. 1, verses 18 and 19] is a Biblical allegory expressed in terms of [Blair’s] native background-New Zealand. [It] shows a formalization of New Zealand landscape more structurally interpreted. Journal: Art in New Zealand 1936

Some very striking examples of modern art are to be seen in the lounge of Messrs. Krikcaldie and Stains at the present time. The three exhibitors, Helen S Blair, H C Cameron and John Hutton, are all of them artists who make no excuses for their exploration of modern methods in the art of painting. The verdict of the public on what they produce will naturally vary according to the critics’ taste, but there is no denying the interest of such paintings, although one can imagine an admirer of Constable, for instance, standing aghast before several of the landscapes presented by these artists. ‚ÄúHelen S Blair is distinctly intriguing with her scene from the Book of Job and with her Abstractions’ while some of her landscapes bear a distinct resemblance to the start formality found in some of the landscapes painted by old masters as backgrounds to their figure subjects.  In some of the watercolour landscapes there is less aggressiveness.‚Äù The Evening Post, Jan 31 1936

Helen S Blair’s painting shows a strong attempt at control. The method of work-putting on separate dabs of colour with a knife-is not a better method than any other; it all depends how you use it. But there is respect for the material here with which the painting is painted-namely, paint. There are dabs of colour, not mixed muds. The colours alternate and contrive to dance in a pattern which suggests (but does not wish to imitate) the tremors of the sunlight, as in ‚ÄúMetropolis‚Äù, a street scene. In the landscape, the individual touches follow the form of the hills and heighten the effect of drawing of the planes. On a modest scale Miss Blair is quietly attacking the real problems of painting, ignoring and indifferent to the applause which can be gained by meretricious display. Journal: Art in New Zealand (1931).

 

 Nell Hutton (Helen Blair) at Landemere, by John Hutton



Girl having her hair combed, c.1960

Rachel Reckitt

Provenance: Private collection, Norfolk
In orginal wooden batten frame with linen slip

This striking composition was painted around 1960 in the basement kitchen of a large house on the canal side near Regent’s Park, London. The model was a Nigerian student nurse.   The painting is one of a series of conversation pieces that the artist undertook in the 1960’s, which included subjects such as boys on bicycles, queues at bakers, gossiping women in the street. 

For the subject of this painting Reckitt might well have been inspired by The Maids 
(Les Bonnes) a play by the French dramatist Jean Genet, first performed at the Thé√¢tre de l’Athénée in Paris in a production that opened on 17 April 1947.  In turn Reckitt’s painting might have been the inspiration for Paula Reago’s ‘The Maids’ which bears a striking resemblance:

Reckitt was a highly individual and versatile artist working as a painter, sculptor – in mild steel, wood, and stone – and print maker.  She was born in St
Albans, Hertfordshire and studied at the Grosvenor School of Modern
Art in late 1930s under lain Macnab, and in 1970-75 at the Roadwater
Smithy, Somerset, with Harry and Jim Horrobin.  After training Reckitt
worked from home in west Somerset at Rodhuish, Minehead. She carried out
commissions for pub signs; wood-engraved book illustrations and single
prints; and did sculpture in five Somerset churches and for private
commission. She was an honorary member of the Somerset Guild of
Craftsmen and SWE and a member of British Artist Blacksmiths’
Association. Other group shows included Wertheim Gallery and LG. Had
solo exhibitions at Duncan Campbell Contemporary Art and Bridgwater
Arts Centre. A retrospective publication, Rachel Reckitt: where
everything that meets the eye… appeared in zoos, Hal Bishop’s survey
of her work, supported by Somerset County Museums Service and the
Golsoncott Foundation, accompanying shows in Taunton, Glastonbury and
Exeter. Public collections in Salford and Bridgwater hold examples, as
do Withycombe, Old Cleeve and Leighland.

We are grateful to Hal Bishop for assistance and the Golsoncott Foundation (who hold Reckitt’s copyright).  Additionally we are grateful to Rebecca and Alistair Hicks.

Exhibited:  Rachel Reckitt, ‘Where Everything that meets the eye … A retrospective’, 2001.

Man at WorkA Century of Technical and Social Progress, 1961

Barbara Jones

‘The two most impressive murals Barbara Jones produced were of gigantic heads, the first commissioned by the Central Office of Information for an International Labour Office exhibition in Turin celebrating the centenary of the Italian State (1961), the other for Philips Research Laboratory in Eindhoven (1966). These were not only striking because of their size but because of the way Jones chose to interpret her briefs. The Philips mural, entitled Man and his Senses, is a relatively straightforward strong image, with enlargened fingertips, mouth, nose, eyes and ears filled with patterned neurons and synapses, only weakened by the somewhat sentimental placing of a rose outside the head.

The Turin head is altogether more problematic carrying numerous ghostly figures not easily discerned at a distance. The theme was ‘Man at Work’; a century of technical and social progress – with which Barbara seems to have been at her most capricious. A very close inspection shows that at least some of the figures have at least a tenuous connection to the title  a board meeting, some agricultural scenes, coal miners with lamps and canaries, and, in the right ear of the head, a dentist with his patient! However, these few scenes are completely overwhelmed by a plethora of Jones’s preferred subjects – a coffin, two couples embracing, a skeleton, a tiger atop a crocodile, and, her very favourite – an owl.

It is not surprising then that Barbara declared the Turin head the work of which she was most proud, and she went to considerable lengths and expense to buy it back and to return it to her studio, where it remains, her only extant mural of any note. The work epitomizes her approach to mural commissions, which can only be described as that of a maverick. She was sufficiently competent, charming and astute to attract commissions, and to know when, and how far, to compromise with briefs, but would seize any possibility to slip in her own quirky obsessions.

(Ruth Artmonsky, British Murals & Decorative Painting
1920-1960, Sansom & Co, 2013, p. 332)

 

Jones’ mural may well have inspired Paolozzi’s signature series of heads:


(Paolozzi contributed a bronze relief , shown at the enterance of the Applied Science Department at the same exhibition).

Father and child above a harbour with Maltese Fishing Boats below, circa 1959

Rachel Reckitt

This painting shows  luzzu  traditional fishing boat from the Maltese islands

Reckitt studied wood engraving at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London from 1933 to 1937, where she was taught by the School’s founder, Iain Macnab. Although painted in tempera, this work has all the hard-edge stylisation of a print, and stays true to the mission of the School in its rendering of ordinary subject matter with great movement and vitality.  

Photograph of Rachel Reckitt in her studio

Medusa Grown Old, 1947

Marion Adnams

Exhibited: Cathedral Church All Saints Derby, An Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Marion Adnams, 27th October-5th November, no 75

In 1947, Marion Adnams ‚Äì the leading Surrealist in Derby ‚Äì borrowed a small African sculpture from the city’s museum for closer study.

‘One day I made a drawing of her, and, when it was finished, dropped it down on the floor by my chair. By chance, it landed on a drawing I had done the day before ‚Äì a drawing of an ancient English oak tree, with gnarled, twisting branches. They framed the head of the African figure, and there she was ‚Äì Medusa, with snakes for hair.’

Those snakes are the Gorgon’s most luridly distinctive attribute. But Adnams gave her new composite work a more unexpected title, Medusa Grown Old.

In classical myth, Medusa died young. A mortal, unlike her sister- Gorgons, she was beheaded by the youthful hero Perseus, heavily briefed by gods and fates. At her death, Medusa was heavily pregnant by the greatest sea god, Poseidon; sources differ as to her consent. The winged steed Pegasus sprang from his slain mother’s blood, and from Pegasus’ hoof-beat came in turn the Hippocrene spring ‚Äì vital source of all artistic inspiration.

Set apart from any such cyclical destiny, Adnams’ African Gorgon presides over barren rock and blasted bough, the stricken world of Modernism and its post-war legacy. Adnams kept the sculpture ‚Äì long after the picture was finished ‚Äì, but then returned ‚ÄúMedusa‚Äù after an attack of nocturnal panic. ‚ÄúAfter that I confined myself to shells and butterflies ‚Äì very beautiful and much safer.‚Äù

Commentary by Minoo Dinshaw, author of Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman (2016). He is currently investigating the workings of the god Mercury in seventeenth century England.

A Glaring Demon, (blue and yellow) from Devils in Diverse Shapes, circa 1906

Marion Wallace Dunlop

Marion Wallace-Dunlop exhibited her series of roaring and grinning Devils in Divers Shapes’ at John Baillie’s Gallery, London, in 1905. A review in The Studio, while admiring the originality and inventiveness of the prints, considered, nevertheless, that a feminine belief in the pretty is often
apparent in them’. Knowledge of the artist’s biography, which included daring protests for the women’s suffrage movement, suggests a wider
range of thematic and emotional content.

Trained at the Slade School of Fine Art, by the 1890s Wallace-Dunlop was enjoying a successful career as a painter and illustrator. After 1900, however, she turned her classical training to the service of the militant women’s suffrage movement, joining the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage, the Fabian Women’s Group and the Women’s Social and Political Union, for whom she organized and designed a series of spectacular processions. After being arrested for militancy in 1909, she became the first British suffragette to go on hunger strike.

With its intense glare, sharp claws and whip-like tail, this almost-amphibious and androgynous creature is perhaps the most menacing of the Devils series. In 1867, the writer and social criticThomas Carlyle termed universal suffrage the “Devil- appointed way” to count heads. In this context, it is easy to imagine that Wallace-Dunlop fully intended for her devils to be the very incarnation of a sense of outrage at the
injustices to which women were subjected.

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, et al. Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p. 11.

 

Femmes aux nattes, circa 1925

The Madly Scrambling Circles of Upward Mobility, 1950’s

Esphyr Slobodkina

Slobodkina’s temerity to “use anything” as artistic media evidences her bold, individualistic spirit. However, she also owes a debt of gratitude to Dada artist Kurt Schwitters and his influential Merz pictures of the 1920s that pioneered the use of everyday junk – “streetcar tickets, cloakroom checks, bits of wood, wire twine, bent wheels, tissue paper, tin cans, chips of glass, etc [20]”– as fertile material for collages. In elevating daily detritus to the realm fine art, Schwitters and Slobodkina call attention to the throw-away nature of consumer culture. Whether this evocation is celebratory or critical remains ambiguous, left for the viewer to decide.

Throughout the fifties, Slobodkina focused mostly on painting. However, in the sixties, when “junk” art became more widely practiced by artists such as John Chamberlain, Slobodkina returned to assemblage more avidly. Like Chamberlain, Slobodkina created works that reflect an interest in mechanical objects, but while Chamberlain’s crushed car bodies have a critical edge, Slobodkina’s constructions are more lighthearted and playful.

Escape No. 1, 1960, resembles a dead or dying giant insect, its weighty body an industrial-sized metal horn culled from a commercial alarm system and its spindly legs pieces of radio antennae. While this machinated bug fails its escape attempt, a related work, Escape No. 2, 1960, looks like it might succeed. Like a boat out of a surrealist dreamscape, with a sail made from the top half of a fan cover, a sturdy metal hull from some unidentified machinery, and rigging from painted black string, this fantastic dinghy seems about to float away.

Escape No. 1, 1960, Assemblage, 39 x 17 x 24 1/2″ Slobodkina Foundation

Escape No. 2, 1960, Assemblage, 12 x 9 1/2 x 18″ Slobodkina Foundation
Another work from this period, Typewriter Bird, 1960-1, is the first of several assemblages using antique typewriter parts. Slobodkina recalls, “I found an old typewriter in the corner and couldn’t use it because it was broken so I made something out of it [21].” Here, typebars are arranged like plumage around the carriage as several typewriter keys, with their finger-sized round tips, accentuate the display. All three works belie Slobodkina’s lifelong fascination with mechanized things and her belief that even outmoded technologies can be put to good use.

La Noce, circa 1925

Exhibited: Art Contemporain РExposition Art Français, Anvers, 1926

Zadkine and his wife and child

Portrait of Gilbert Spencer, (red chalk), circa 1919

Hilda Carline

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, et al. Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p. 14.

Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.165.

Hilda Carline met Gilbert Spencer while studying at the Slade School of Fine Art (1918–1922). Gilbert
was the younger brother of Stanley, whom she went on to marry in 1925. These two portrait drawings,
one executed in pencil, the other in red chalk, date to around 1919 and in their vigour and directness
demonstrate the influence of the teachings of Professor Henry Tonks (1862-1937), who encouraged
students to emulate the drawing methods of the Renaissance masters.
Pencil provided artists with the opportunity to create lines with a very precise delineation. Although red
chalk could also be used in the same way, it tended to be valued primarily for its quality to convey subtle
graduations in tone, similar to pastel and charcoal, ideal for the rendering of human flesh.

We are grateful to Hermione Carline and Jackie Naffah for assistance

Self portrait, 1912, red chalk on paper,

 40 x 22cm, Stanley Spencer (1891-1959).  

Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, gift of the Contemporary Art Society, 1954.

Hilda Carline

Sculpted Female Head, c. 1960

Leila Faithfull

Faithfull studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, 1923-4, and later at L’Académie de la Grande Chaumi√®re, Paris. During the war, she produced commissions for the WAAC, and gained employment as a surgical artist at the new plastic surgery unit at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, under Sir Archibald McIndoe.

The artist built a reputation as a portrait painter, and exhibited widely with works shown at the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Royal Society of British Artists and the New English Art Club. Both Kenneth Clark and Sir Edward Marsh acquired examples of her work for their private collections.

Marconi Transmitting the First Radio Signals from Cornwall to Newfoundland, 1901

Barbara Jones

Barbara Jones particularly loved watercolour for its translucence and brilliance and its emotive evo-
cation of place, qualities which are evident in Marconi Transmitting the First Radio Signals from Cornwall

to Newfoundland, 1901(overleaf), one of 12 watercolours commissioned in 1950 by the Financial Times
for a calendar titled A Half Century of Progress’. By the time she received this commission, Jones’
reputation was already secure, having been one of the most admired – and certainly most prolific – of the
contributors to the Recording Britain project, a collection of more than 1500 watercolours and drawings
commissioned from artists to record British lives and landscapes during the Second World War.

In her book, Water-Colour Painting, A Practical Guide (1960), Jones was as much concerned with engaging
the reader’s delight with the medium as with giving instruction in technique: One day when you come
in … you will pour out a drink, light a cigarette, and sink into a chair, having painted a picture. Nothing
in the world is like this sensation, peace and elation, God on the seventh day’.

The idea of commissioning Jones to do a mural for the Mount Pleasant sorting office in 1961 was probably
inspired by the American Public Works Art Project which resulted in more than 1,200 murals being
painted in post offices throughout the United States. This 3-metre long maquette is the largest record
of the proposed mural – it is unclear whether this commission was ever realised.

The use of collage as a fine rather than a decorative art was one of the most significant innovations
of the twentieth century, and is most associated with Picasso and Braque. The medium would have
especially appealed to Jones, however, for its association with folk art. Through books such as The
Unsophisticated Arts’ (1951), she sought to blur the traditional boundaries between art, design and
craft.

Siamese Cat in a Tree, 1937

Gladys Hynes

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, et al. Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p. 51.

Although fifteen years separate The Railway Carriage and Siamese Cat, Gladys Hynes’ interest in a Vorticist-
inflected aesthetic – jagged, rhythmical and linear – which she first embraced in 1919, energizes both

works. Before the First World War, Hynes had been part of a thriving second-generation of Newlyn
painters, along with Laura Knight and Dod Procter, producing a striking body of work inspired by Cornwall’s
pools and rocks, cliff tops and ocean views. In 1919 she moved to London, taking lodgings in South
Hampstead with the poet John Rodker, whose Ovid press was publishing graphic work by former members
of the Vorticist group. In 1927, Hynes received what was to be the most important commission of
her career, to illustrate a folio edition of Ezra Pound’s Cantos 17‚Äì27, published by Rodker. Under this
influence, and revelling in her new independence as an observer of the urban scene, Hynes’ pictures
evolved noticeably towards a more modern aesthetic and subject-matter, a stylistic change that affronted
the Daily Mail’s critic, who in 1922 lamented that she has turned away from all that is beautiful and
soulful’.

Seven Days

Evelyn Dunbar

Exhibited: Corn Exchange, Rochester, May 1939; Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, Pallant House Gallery, October 2015 – February 2016, cat 72.

Literature: Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, eds Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2015, cat. 72, page 110, 112-113;

Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.382.

Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting, Christopher Campbell-Howes, October 2016, pages 238-240.

Seven Days, one of Dunbar’s most intriguing – and powerful – allegorical paintings, has ‘Design for a mural’ written on the frame and scrawled on the back. Completed in 1938, it was exhibited in May 1939 at the Corn Exchange, Rochester, with this subtitle. What mural this refers to is not known. There’s an unusual clue to its destiny as a mural design: several extraneous red transfer lines remain on the canvas. Which way should we read the figures? Left to right, the normal direction we read in, or right to left, following the group from the light to the dark, following the increasing length of the shadows? Does it matter? I think it does, maybe in the Kierkegaardian sense of life being lived forwards but understood backwards. On one level Seven Days is all about gardening, with one telling exception. Moving from left to right, Numbers 2 and 3 (the woman with the lily and hydrangeas), 4 and 5 all carry references to making things grow, to looking after creation, even at the level of the garden, in return, as is usual in Dunbar’s work, for having been given it by the Creator. Number 6 sums up the benefits: she’s carrying a basket of fruit, probably plums. Then Number 7, whom we can now confidently associate with Sunday, is reading, attending to things of the mind. Maybe it’s her Bible, we don’t know, but significantly behind her there’s a door in the wall, maybe opening on to wider horizons and brighter truths. The top of the wall is strongly lit, suggesting that whatever lies beyond it basks in sunlight. On another level Seven Days is a personal statement. In preliminary sketches Number 1 is carrying a baby, her own particular harvest and promise for the future. Why did Dunbar change her to a woman carrying washing? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that a little before the design of Seven Days was finalised Dunbar miscarried. The father was Charles Mahoney, her colleague and lover, formerly her Royal College of Art tutor. They weren’t married. Their relationship came apart as her pregnancy was confirmed. The miscarriage and separation was a time of terrible misery for her, leading to what Dunbar called her ‘crisis’ years, which only ended with her 1940 appointment as a war artist. Christopher Campbell-Howes

We are grateful to Christopher Campbell-Howes for assistance.

Autumnal Equinox

Ithell Colquhoun

Inscribed on a label verso Ithell Colquhoun, Stonecross Cottage, Green Land Pound, Penzance; and on another Official agents Alfred Styles and Sons, Autumnal Equinox

 

Some watercolour studies for the work can be found in the Tate Archive.

Francoise Gilot in her studio, 1954

Exhibited: Louise Leiris

Self portrait, c.1937

Phyllis Ginger

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, et al. Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p. 69.

Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.304.

This brutally honest self-portrait can be dated to Phyllis Ginger’s student years at the Central School of
Art, where, having been awarded a scholarship, she studied under William P Robins. She had recently
left her civil service clerking job – a career path that her parents had persuaded her to take – and
had cut her long auburn hair short. Leafing through a sketchbook, and engaging the viewer with a bold
and penetrating gaze, Ginger asserts herself as an independent artist. This is a rare self-image; Eleanor
Durbin, the artist’s daughter, declared that portraying friends and family members was much more in
Ginger’s character. She was interested in recording others and was more generally self-effacing about
her own image on paper’.With her heart set on a career in illustration, Ginger became a member of
the Senefelder Club in 1939, and during the war produced work for the Recording Britain project. In the
1950s she illustrated numerous books and exhibited etchings with the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers
and Engravers and at the Royal Academy.

Although Ginger made designs for Wedgwood plates, and 17 preparatory sketches are in the collection
of the Imperial War Museum, no designs went into production. During the war, supplies of paper were
limited, and the brown discolouration of this proof is due to the paper’s high content of acidic wood
pulp.

We are grateful to Maude Llewellyn and Eleanor Durbin for assistance.

Copyright  for Phyllis Ginger is held by the Artist’s Estate, courtesy of Eleanor Henley and Paul Durbin.

Young Girl at a table

Else Berg (19 February 1877, Ratibor – 19 November 1942, Auschwitz) was a German-born Dutch painter of Jewish descent; associated with the Bergense School. She was married to the Dutch painter, Mommie Schwarz.

Berg was born in Ratibor which was then part of the German provence of Silesia. Her father was a Liberal Jew and owned a cigar factory. In 1895, she began her studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Five years later, with the financial support of her parents, she continued at the Berlin University of the Arts, where she studied with Arthur Kampf. According to some sources, she also studied in Paris.

In 1905, she met Mommie Schwarz, who had recently returned from New York and had come to Berlin to study German Expressionism. They went to Paris together to have a look at the latest artistic trends there. The following year, they settled in Amsterdam and became part of the Modern Art movement. For many years, they travelled together, although they kept separate studios. In 1920 they were married and, four years later, she became a naturalized Dutch citizen.

Despite financial difficulties, they continued to travel throughout Eastern Europe, Italy and France. They also had an extended stay on Mallorca, with Leo Gestel and his wife, where they took up Cubism. As the Nazis came to power, many of their friends and family left for England or the United States.

Initially, they felt safe in Amsterdam, but they refused to wear the “Yellow Badge” when it became mandatory and went into hiding in Baambrugge. They were apparently betrayed. In November 1942 they were arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where they were put to death shortly after their arrival.

William Nicholson at Work, 1918

Nancy Nicholson

Exhibited: Sanctuary, Artist-Gardeners, 1919-39, Garden Museum, London, 25th February ‚Äì 5 April, 2020

Literature: Christopher Woodward, Sanctuary: Artist-Gardeners, 1919‚Äì1939, published by Liss Llewellyn, 2020.

Llewellyn, Sacha, et al. Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p. 13.

Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.332.

In his book Flower and Still Life Painting (1928), Charles Holme considered that William Nicholson’s popular
reputation is that of a flower-painter above all’ and that his work in this direction lies along the great line of
tradition’. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Nancy Nicholson has depicted her distinguished father, with
her characteristic humour, painting a still life of flowers in a vase, any hint of spontaneity negated by the
group of diminutive men on ladders carefully arranging the stems. In the corner, Nancy’s husband Robert
Graves, newly demobilized from the army, towers above the scene.

Of this work, the writer Candia McWilliam has commented, the language is satisfying in composition as one
would expect of a printmaker, effective on contextualising and subversive levels as one would expect of a
dedicated feminist, and richly, acutely seen, transmuting an apparent still life into a telling human dynamic’.

Nancy by William Nicholson,1912

Portrait bust of Anthony Butts, 1925

Gladys Hynes

Anthony Butts (1900 – 1941). Painter, writer and Dilettante, companion of William Plomer, and fictionalised by him in Museum Pieces, 1952. vividly described by Stephen Spender in World Within World, 1951.

On Butts’ appearance, Spender wrote: ‘He had eyes of a china blue which stared out of their facade of a slapstick face, with a solemnity which would suddenly collapse into laughter’. Spender added: ‘He was one of those extremely talented people who do not know how to direct their gifts. During one promising period of life he became a painter, and was for a time a pupil of Sickert.’ Spender, reproduced by University of Berkeley Press, 1966, p. 150.

In her biography of Elizabeth Bowen, Patricia Laurence notes that Butts painted the novelist’s portrait in 1938. Laurence writes that Bowen ‘found him fascinating and admired his wildness and unique way of talking, particularly about his family: he was descended from Thomas Butts, a patron of William Blake. After Woolf’s suicide in March, 1941, and that of Butts’ two months later, Bowen confided to Plomer that they were the only two people she missed’.

Black Gloves, c.1930

Valentine Dobree

She has given so much of herself to the world, lived so fiercely it

is splendid… So wrote fellow artist Dora Carrington of her friend

Valentine Dobrée, the beautiful, aristocratic yet volatile daughter of an

English diplomat who lived her life variously as novelist, poet and artist.

She was perhaps best known for her book Your Cuckoo Sings by Kind,

published in 1927 and celebrated at the time for its bold treatment of

sexuality, yet since the early 1920s had been producing (and exhibiting)

artworks in differing styles created with a self-conscious knowledge

of recent avant-garde movements and ideas. One such example is this

work Black Gloves, a curious collage that hovers between figuration and

abstraction and which both reveals and conceals.

Blocks of pattern form the background to the central section which

resembles a fragmented figure out of which radiate numerous thin white

lines. There is an energy to this figure. The folded arms of the gloves,

the profile of the head outlined in black seem to tell us more than the

decorative. Was this intended to be Dobrée’s veiled self-portrait ‚Äì an

image with which she wished to declare: Here I am, liberated, sexualised

and in control‚ one might wonder, as Dobrée enjoyed a lively love

life at a time when relationships among the bohemia were fluid. Married

in 1913 to the well-connected Bonamy Dobrée, she also had affairs

with painter Mark Gertler, the Bloomsburyite Ralph Partridge and with

the solider poet Richard Adlington. Lytton Strachey noticed that she

was‚ perhaps a Saph…much attracted to [Dora Carrington]. Dora,

for her part, was deeply fond of Dobrée, admire the ways she has no

preconceived conception of how a woman and an artist should live…

Commentary by Simon Grant, Editor of Tate Etc magazine, Co-Editor of Picpus magazine and also curates exhibitions, most recently Paul Nash at the Fondation Vincent van Gogh, Arles.

Patriachal Piss: Swing in the Wind, 1973

Semi-detached Villas, 1945

Tirzah Garwood-Ravilious

During her recovery from a mastectomy for primary cancer and closely

followed by the death of my father, the artist Eric Ravilious, in 1942,

my mother, Tirzah, wrote an entertainingly direct and perceptive

autobiography of their life together. She was thirty-four and the mother

of three young children. As a student, she had excelled as a wood

engraver. She now rediscovered the creativity that had lain virtually

dormant throughout her married life. She began painting in oils, but

also produced a series of captivating images of local Essex houses and

shop fronts, (1944–1949). She soon developed her own distinctive style,

where each one was lovingly recorded with a mixture of print and collage

which she assembled and sometimes constructed into a 3D model in

a shallow box frame. This early example, Semi-detached Villas, has the

barge boarding and paint work picked out in ochre against the dark

brown house, and the deep wooden frame painted white gives an added

spatial dimension to the image set back behind the glass. A quantity of

sketches of architectural details suggest that all her subjects were from

real life. The key to the success of Tirzah’s series of houses is that as a

painter might set about portraying a human face, so Tirzah, by isolating

the subject and stressing the features that most interest her, brings out the

individuality that had originally attracted her to her subject. This picture

was once owned by her friend, Kenneth Rowntree.

Commentary by Anne Ullman. Ullman took a Negotiated Art Degree which included a module researching the lives and

work of her parents, Tirzah Garwood and Eric Ravilious. She has published her father’s letters and

her mother’s autobiography and is currently working on a book about her mother’s career.

Only one needlework picture from the early 1930's survives.  It shows a walled garden with beds of cabbages and marrows, and a young woman watering a row of runner beans; the hose circling the lawn snakes around her feet and sends out a fine spray of satin silk water.  The embroidery is reminiscent of the work once made by sailors on long sea voyages, and as such has a very English feel; as so often in her work, Tirzah demonstrates an innovative approach to a traditional craft.  Her use of modern imagery and unusual everyday subject matter, a fashionable artistic trend in the 1930's, now giving this needlework picture a very evocative flavour of the era.

Two Forms , 1936

Jessica Dismorr

Exhibited: 50/50; Fifty British Women Artists 1900 – 1950, Worshipful Company of Mercers (3rd December 2018 Р23rd March, 2019); The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds (9th April, 2019 Р27th July, 2019).

Even at the end of her career, Jessica Dismorr was still making radical

shifts in her practice. This abstract, one of a series of such paintings that

preoccupied her final years, is typical of the palette of soft greys and putty

colours and the curving amorphous forms in her work of the late 1930s.

Although this painting may at first seem quiet, restrained and even

elegant to our eyes, Dismorr chose to show these late works at the antifascist

artists groups that were being formed at this time in response

to the rise of the Nazis. She exhibited with the Artists’ International

Association, and was one of only seven British women to be included in

Die Olympiade onder Dictatuur in Amsterdam in 1936, an international

show designed to counter the Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels’

efforts to condemn Modernism. Among the books in Jessica Dismorr’s

library after her death in the summer of 1939 was a copy of 5 on

Revolutionary Art (London, Wishart, 1935), a volume of collected essays

on how art could answer the political crisis and lead the way forward.

In that sense, even though Untitled may seem worlds apart from

Dismorr’s early work as member of the Rhythm Group in the 1910s ‚Äì

with its figurative subject matter and vivid palette – there is consistency

and common ground in her unceasing risk-taking and desire to be part of

an avant-garde whose work spoke to the modern world.

Commentary by Alicia Foster, art historian and novelist. She is curating an exhibition, Jessica Dismorr and her Contemporaries, which will open at Pallant House Gallery in 2019.

Untitled, 1920’s

Design for Wall Decoration, c.1918

Winifred Knights

Exhibited: London, The Fine Art Society, Winifred Knights, 1995, no. 2a

Literature: Paul Liss, Winifred Knights, The Fine Art Society, 1995, no. 2a, pp. 31 and 48

Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.338.

This oil study is for the earliest of Knights’ decorative paintings: Design for Wall Decoration, the Slade Sketch Club Special Figure Subject for January 1918.  The mural itself is unlikely to have been executed – other studies indicate that its intended size was to be 5 X 6 ft (the size of paintings entered for the Scholarship to Rome). The picture is inspired by the Italian Primitives, as the clarity of form, and the thoughtful arrangement of the figures in space indicate. The studies for the composition were probably executed while staying at Lineholt Farm in Worcestershire, between October 1917 and October 1918.

Sheet of studies for Design for Wall Decoration.

Knights with her two Aunts at Lineholt

Morning, c.1915

Gladys Hynes

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.351.

Morning is a previously unrecorded work by Gladys Hynes (1888 ‚Äì 1958) which belongs to a series of paintings produced in the 1910s in which Lamorna Cove (West Cornwall) forms the backdrop. The beauty spot, a favourite haunt of the Newlyn artists, is especially associated with Laura Knight who lived in Lamorna Valley and painted a celebrated series of compositions of figures posed on the cliffs. 

                                   (Laura Knight, On the Cliffs, circa 1917)

In her autobiography Oil Paint and Grease Paint (1936) Knight described how the cliffs, rocks and sea were fine to paint with figures bathing and swimming in the pools or dressing and undressing’.  Hynes, who lived in West Cornwall between 1906 and 1919, recalled how she loved to lie on the cliffs all day looking out to sea, which was as smooth and glittering as a dancing floor‚Ķand lovely as a dream’.

                               (Gladys Hynes, Chalk Quarries, 1917)


Stylistically, Morning can be situated between Hynes picture In the Park, (1912), a conscious attempt to paint in the contemporary Post-Impressionist idiom, and Chalk Quarries (1917), in which emphasis is given to the underlying geometry. In Morning, the arrangement of the bathers is carefully controlled and choreographed while the rendering of the shoreline is schematic and static, the sense of atmosphere, space and spontaneity surrendered to flat bands of colour.  Indeed, C. E. Vulliamy, Hynes’ fellow student at the Newlyn School, noted her interest in Cubism, describing her paintings as stylisations of characteristic form’. This heightened sense of design also underscored Hynes’ later masterpiece, Noah’s Ark (1919), one of the highlights of the Daily Express’s Young Artists Exhibition’ held at the Royal Society of British Artists in 1927.  


                                  (Gladys Hynes, Noah’s Ark, 1919)

While in Morning Hynes demonstrates an awareness of the grande baigneuses of the Impressionists and Post-impressionists (including Renoir, Gaugin, Monet and Cézanne), the artist she seems closest to in spirit is Seurat, whose work influenced other Newlyn artists, most notably Dod Procter. As well as sharing the same colour palette (pinks, burnt orange, black, red and fawn) of Seurat’s Bathers at Asni√®res (1884), Morning also mirrors the sense of timeless melancholia and composed grandeur of Seurat’s painting. Hynes’ Morning also evokes a dialogue with Piero della Francesca, especially in the young woman in pink, the smooth curve of her bowed back echoing the figure disrobing for baptism in Piero’s Baptism of Christ (1448-50). 

 

                                      (Georges Seurat, Bathers at Asni√®res, 1884)

For her models, Hynes called on her artist friends. The figure drying her hair can be identified as Dod Procter, who also lived in Newlyn, while the fully clothed figure in orange is Nina Hamnett, with whom Hynes had developed a deep friendship when they were students at Brangwyn’s London School of Art. I keep remembering the brilliantly gay and very talented creature-and one of the most shapely our creator ever produced’, Hynes would write on Hamnett’s death in 1956. The central nude bears a striking resemblance to Hynes herself; in ambitious figure compositions it was not unusual for artists to include themselves as the central protagonist, as in Winifred Knights The Deluge (1920).  

                            (Dod Proctor, Portrait of Gladys Hynes, circa 1919)

It is likely that Hynes painted Morning in the tranquility of her Newlyn studio, as by 1915 The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA), which prevented artists from working out of doors, was being strictly enforced in Cornwall, for it was there that a German invasion was most feared. Alfred Munnings, who lived at Lamorna, remarked that he ‘dared not be sketching out of doors in the country at all’

While the first generation of Newlyn painters typically portrayed the Cornish coastline as a place of daily toil (see for example Stanhope Forbes Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach (1885)), Morning, in common with Laura Knight’s compositions, intersects closely with the modern culture of the beach as a place for leisure and contemplation.  The six women have emerged revived from an early morning swim, and yet a pensive air seems to float around them. While at first sight Morning can be read as a form of hymn to the joys of sea bathing, Hynes was painting the composition at a time when the nation was in the midst of the First World War. This would prove to be an agonizing period of loss for Hynes; her brother Patrick was killed in 1915 in a plane crash while her brother Hugh would suffer from the effects of shellshock for many years to come. Typical of an iconography that would increasingly characterize Hynes’ work, Morning thus challenges the viewer to look beyond the fantasies of a traditional idyll to a more contemporary (and often darker) reality. As the critic Charles Marriot wrote in 1917, despite the decorative treatment’ of Hynes’ paintings, they had the bite of life, and of modern life’ which produced an effect of deliberate awkwardness’.  The men who are, on second glance, absent from the tranquil scene, may not return to their native coast. Likewise, Hynes was soon to leave behind Cornwall’s gentle pattern of life, at first during wartime commutes to London to join Roger Fry’s Omega Workshops and in 1919 to set up her studio permanently in London where she would embark on the next stage of her remarkable career.