George Clausen and the Picture of English Rural Life
In 1979, to coincide with the Royal Academy’s Post- Impressionism exhibition and anticipate the large Sir George Clausen touring show, The Fine Art Society staged The Rustic Image, an exhibition surveying rural themes in British Painting. Of the eighty pictures by forty-two artists represented, nine were by Clausen. Not only did it demon- strate the painter’s central importance in British art at the turn of the twentieth century, but the exhibition also reflected a time-honoured relationship. Clausen’s work had first been shown at The Fine Art Society in the early years of the century and through his longstanding friendship with the society’s manager, Ernest Procter Dawbarn, he became a regular exhibitor. As Kenneth McConkey points out in his monograph, they remained in contact until a couple of years before the artist’s death in 1944 at the age of 92.
The original Rustic Image show featured Clausen’s great Allotment Gardens on its catalogue cover and also contained his splendid pastel, A Sheepfold in Evening, both of which reappeared in the retrospective exhibition of 1980. To these were added The Ploughboy, A Village Girl, The Breakfast Table, The Mowers, The Dark Barn and The Student along with two of his impressive sequence of misty morning landscapes shown at the 1920 Academy, and other important canvases, prints and drawings, to form the exhibition.