2 OCTOBER - 14 NOVEMBER
ROWENA MORGAN-COX, MANAGING DIRECTOR, LONDON
The Fine Art Society is now almost 145 years old and has survived two world wars, depressions, a financial crash and, most recently, a global pandemic. The decision to relinquish our original building on New Bond Street was a sad one, but necessary. With the slate wiped clean, we have been afforded the opportunity to ponder the essence of FAS and work out how best to preserve it, while evolving to ensure our longevity. The secrets of our previous successes will be essential: respect for the gallery’s history; fearlessness in resurrecting overlooked artists; an egalitarian approach to fine art and its counterpart, design; attention to detail in presentation and scholarship; and the distillation of the Fine Art Society aesthetic – intangible but instantly recognisable.
In the pages of this catalogue, accompanying our first exhibition in our beautiful new space, we trust you will discern this ethos. Our star artists, old friends of the gallery since the early days, are represented here. We have a beautiful Nocturne by Whistler, made on a trip to Venice funded by the gallery, and two pictorially inventive pieces by Sickert, who famously described us as 'The Best Shop in London'. Of the (undeservedly) lesser known artists in the catalogue we showed both Doris Zinkeisen and Ethelbert White at the gallery within their lifetimes, and held a major retrospective of White’s work shortly after his death. Several of the artists and designers shown here were also rescued from obscurity by the gallery: we first exhibited Christopher Dresser in 1972, Joseph Southall in 1980, while Charles Ashbee and The Guild of Handicraft were first shown in 1981.
We are pleased to include one of the best works by Walter Greaves, a working-class boatman in Chelsea who later became pupil and studio assistant to Whistler. We also include a rare work by Clare Atwood, who was loosely associated with the Camden Town group, including Sickert and Spencer Gore, through the New English Art Club. Many of the artists in this catalogue were associated with this group, considered avant-garde at its inception, followed by the even more radical London Group.
A major highlight of the exhibition is a portrait by John Minton of his young friend and student Eric Verrico, which easily rivals his portraits of the same period now held in museums around the world. Like many artists of the time, including Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud, Soho was Minton’s stomping ground. His friends, fans and rivals congregated around the notorious Colony Room and the portrait was once in the collection of the club’s infamous owner, Muriel Belcher. In 1988 The Fine Art Society held an exhibition of Artists in Soho, including works by Minton alongside his close friends Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde. The artistic associations with Soho past and present are an important part of our relocation there. It retains enough of its off-beat spirit and historical character to suit a gallery such as The Fine Art Society.
AUGUSTUS WELBY NORTHMORE PUGIN (1812-1852) (DESIGNER)
JOHN HARDMAN & CO., BIRMINGHAM (MAKER)
THREE BRANCH CANDELABRA, 1840
silver and gold plate on brass and copper
80 x 54 x 54 cm 31 1/2 x 21 1/4 x 21 1/4 inches
Provenance: John Hardman; Private collection, UK
Exhibited: Birmingham Exhibition of Manufacturers, September 1849, Birmingham
Literature: The Journal of Design, The Journal of Design and Manufactures, II, (1849) illus. p.52; Paul Atterbury & Cive Wainwright (eds.), Pugin - A Gothic Passion, exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum (Yale 1994) p.237, pl.443
A.W.N. Pugin was a pioneer of early Victorian design reform. In the 1840s he completed the architectural plans for several churches and seminaries for the Catholic Church as well as designing their furnishings. He travelled incessantly around the British Isles eulogising about the virtues of pre-Reformation England and advocating a system of architecture based on Medieval and godly principles. His Reformed Gothic designs for the Palace of Westminster initiated many patterns and techniques that found their way into the commercial repertoire of British domestic design.
Pugin's Medieval Court at the Great Exhibition of 1851 was especially significant in the dissemination of his design principles. He began work on this contribution the year before with his closest allies, Hardman, Crace, Myers and Minton. He had always worked very closely with his manufacturers, encouraging the introduction of new products and techniques. Prior to this, Pugin and John Hardman had collaborated at the Birmingham Exhibition of Manufacturers in 1849, which became a blue print for the more ambitious exhibition of 1851. Alongside J.G. Crace, Pugin and Hardman took the opportunity to exhibit a selection of their designs, including this candelabra.
JOHN POLLARD SEDDON (1827-1906)
C. J. C. BAILEY, FULHAM POTTERY (MAKER)
salt glazed stoneware
21.5 x 31 cm 8 1/2 x 12 1/4 inches
Literature: Michael Whiteway & Charlotte Gere, Nineteenth-Century Design: From Pugin to Mackintosh, (London 1993) p.118, illus. pl.133
GOTHIC REVIVAL CIBORIUM, 1857
stamped maker's marks and hallmarks for Birmingham 1857
height 31.5 cm 12 3/8 inches
Literature: Paul Atterbury & Cive Wainwright (eds), Pugin: A Gothic Passion, (New Haven 1994) p.247. illus. pl. 457
JOHN POLLARD SEDDON (1827-1906)
GOTHIC ARMCHAIR, C.1860
solid carved walnut with original upholstery
104.5 x 58.5 x 57.2 cm 41 1/16 x 23 x 22 1/2 inches
Literature: Illustrated London News, 18 October 1862, p.424, design exhibited in 1862; Jeremy Cooper, Victorian and Edwardian Decor: From the Gothic Revival to Art Nouveau, (London 1987) pl.220, 221, and 227; Michael Whiteway & Charlotte Gere, Nineteenth-Century Design: from Pugin to Mackintosh, (London 1993) p.82 and p.84; Michael Darby, John Pollard Seddon, Catalogue of Architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, (London 1997) p.111
The work of architect John Pollard Seddon first came to public attention at the International Exhibition of 1862 where he exhibited a group of furniture including two carved armchairs that were variations on this design. They were displayed in the Medieval Court that was organised by the architect William Burges – the most wayward and scholarly of the neo-Gothic designers – and placed on the Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. stand. Seddon’s chair was praised in the Illustrated London News for establishing ‘the possibility of combining beauty and utility with manifest structure’. Different versions of the chair are known to have been made, including a simplified oak version in the V&A Museum, another with hand-painted decoration by Rosetti, and an ebony version, previously in the John Scott Collection.
WALTER GREAVES (1846-1930)
OLD CHELSEA, THE LAST REGATTA, C.1871
signed W Greaves, lower right, and inscribed 'Old Chelsea's Last Regatta by Walter Greaves 525 Fulham Road, Walham Green', in the margin; mounted on original board
oil and gouache over etching
26.1 x 55.2 cm 10 1/4 x 21 3/4 inches
Exhibited: The Fine Art Society, Spring, 2000 (27) London; The Fine Art Society, Chelsea Reach, 2010 (2) London
This picture shows the last iteration of the traditional river festival of the Chelsea regatta which came to an end in 1871 with the construction of the Embankment. The regatta was the event of the year in old Chelsea village. Greaves described with great excitement his impressions of the day, 'what with guns firing, flags flying, bands playing and the immense crowd of people, Chelsea was pretty lively…This regatta, like the other river races made a remarkably artistic display of colour especially as it took place on a fine summer’s day, with blue skies and white clouds.'1
Greaves’ response to the regatta begat several versions: an oil, now in in the collection of Manchester City Art Gallery; his largest and finest etching under the tutelage of James Abbott McNeill Whistler; and a watercolour of the same view, but without the crowd. Both the oil and etching combine his charming, primitive style with the meticulous detail of Whistler’s Thames Set etchings. Unlike his earlier, untutored depiction of the boat race from the 1860s, now in the Tate collection, the result is one of Greaves’ most accomplished and complex works capturing ‘a vigorous, happy moment’.2
Greaves’ life was subsumed by the Thames, Chelsea Reach and river life. Born at number 31 Cheyne Walk, his father was a boatbuilder, waterman and boatman to the artist William Turner. Later Greaves’ connection with the industrial river-land, having trained as a shipwright and boatman, would facilitate his work and friendship with Whistler. Greaves and his brother met Whistler in 1863, together they introduced the artist to the sights of the Thames and later became his studio assistants and proteges.
1.Walter Greaves quoted in Tom Pocock, Chelsea Reach, (London 1970) p.89
2. Pocock, p.90
JAMES MCNEILL WHISTLER (1834-1903)
signed in pencil with a butterfly and inscribed 'imp' printed in brown ink on laid paper, trimmed to the platemark by the artist, leaving a signature tab; an impression in the fifth state (of five): published in 'Twelve Etchings' the First Venice Set (No.4), 1880 in an
edition of 100
19.9 x 29.2 cm 7 13/16 x 11 1/2 inches
Reference: Edward G. Kennedy, 1910, The Etched Work of Whistler, No.184
The Fine Art Society’s commission for a series of etchings in Venice was the pivotal event in Whistler’s career. Coming in 1879, shortly after his bankruptcy it provided him with an escape from London and the humiliations he had suffered. The waterways, the atmosphere and the distinctive architecture of Venice must have had an immediate attraction for an artist who had committed to memory night time views of the Thames that he painted upon his returned to the studio.
The concept of the ‘Nocturne’ had first been suggested by Whistler’s patron, Frederick Leyland, to describe Whistler’s night scenes of the Thames. The word was equally appropriate to these Venice etchings, the most dramatic and exquisite of the artist’s prints, each possessing unique tonal attributes, no one quite the same as another. As the Whistler scholar, Ruth Fine, noted, 'of all the Venice etchings, Nocturne is printed with the greatest kind of variation between impressions. Indeed, depending upon the quality
of the tonal wiping, the time of day appears to range from dusk to midnight to dawn.'
Nocturne was exhibited in Whistler’s seminal show Arrangement in White and Yellow in 1883 at The Fine Art Society (No. 8). Between February 1881 and May 1889 Whistler delivered ninety-seven different impressions to the gallery plus the cancelled plate
in April 1889.
CHRISTOPHER DRESSER (1834-1904) (attributed designer)
HUKIN & HEATH, ENGLAND (maker)
CLARET JUG, 1892
stamped 'jth/jhm, Birmingham', date letter 's', Reg No. 187357
sterling silver and porcelain
height 40 cm 15 ¾ inches
Christopher Dresser’s official visit to Japan in 1876 as a representative of the South Kensington Museum marked a turning point in his practice. He arrived December 1876 and stayed for four months during which time he visited 68 potteries, 100 temples, amassed more than 1000 photographs and selected objects for import by Tiffany of New York, and Londos of London. On his return to England, Dresser embarked on a frenetic period of activity. He started to design silver and electroplate for Hukin & Heath of Birmingham and, in 1879, he began designing for their rivals James Dixon and Sons of Sheffield. Most importantly, in Japan he learnt to admire simplicity and restraint and thus his design output from this point seemingly anticipates Modernism in European design.
This small collection of Dresser’s later designs includes a previously unrecorded claret jug unusually made from Coalport porcelain yet is similar to several elongated glass and silver claret jugs he designed for Hukin & Heath in the 1880s. Alongside this is a rare sterling silver tea set designed for Elkingtons and a classic bon-bon dish.
JOHN PEARSON (1885-1910) (designer)
THE GUILD OF HANDICRAFT LTD (makers)
signed on the base 'J. Pearson 1891'
45 x 25 cm 17 3/4 x 9 7/8 inches
Alongside Charles Robert Ashbee, John Pearson was a founder member of the Guild of Handicraft, which opened in Whitechapel in 1888. As the senior metalworker at the Guild, Pearson was responsible for the production, and in most cases the design, of many of the decorative items executed in the workshops.
Unlike many of the craftsmen who joined the Guild, Pearson was already a skilled metalworker, having previously learned embossing from what was probably one of the amateur classes held by the Home Arts and Industries Association1, an aspect that was somewhat counter to Ashbee’s desire to allow Guild members to develop and nourish their own styles and practices within the guild itself. Nonetheless, as Pearson was the only member to bring metalworking experience to the Guild he had an important impact on its early work. Mainly produced in copper and brass, his work is identifiable by its depictions of animals, birds, sea life and fruity scrolling foliage, much of which was inspired by his previous employment with the ceramic artist William De Morgan.
These ornamental and often strange motifs essentially characterise the Guild's output in its first fourteen years of operation. Despite his founding role at the Guild, Pearson was later asked to leave the co-operative after being found to have solicited private orders, which contravened the Guild's accepted standards of practice. After his dismissal he moved to the established industrial school in Newlyn, Cornwall where he continued to teach metalwork. This jardiniere is an unusual and very rare example of Pearson's early work whilst still working for the Guild.
1. Shirley Bury, An Arts and Crafts Experiment: The Silverwork of C. R. Ashbee, Victoria and Albert Museum Bulletin (London 1967) Vol.3, p.18
CHARLES ROBERT ASHBEE (1863-1942) (designer)
THE GUILD OF HANDICRAFT LTD (maker)
stamped 'cra, London', date letter 'e'
23 x 23 x 23 cm 9 x 9 x 9 inches
Provenance: Arthur Currer Briggs; thence by direct family descent; Sothebys London, 3 November 2019 (lot 40);
Private collection, UK
Literature: C.R. Ashbee, Modern English Silverwork, An Essay By C.R. Ashbee, Together with a series of designs
by The Author, (London 1909) pl. 77, p. 29 (illustrated below)
This large tazza is an exceptional early example of Charles Ashbee’s work for the Guild of Handicraft. It is particularly unusual in scale and complete with the CRA mark for London 1900. It was originally purchased from Ashbee around that date by the Victorian industrialist and social worker, Arthur Currer Briggs whilst he was Mayor of the City of Leeds. Briggs was an important patron of the Arts and Crafts movement, having previously commissioned the architect C.F.A. Voysey to design his holiday home, Broad Leys, in Lake Windermere. Like Voysey, Ashbee had little regard for contemporary fashions preferring a return to simple, traditional production of metalwork through workshops styled on a medieval model.
Ashbee originally formed his own workshop, the Guild of Handicraft, in Whitechapel in 1888, before its move to the Cotswolds at the turn of the century. Like many of the advocates of the Arts & Crafts movement their ethos blended ideas on art, design and manufacture with politics and desire for social change. By 1900 the workshops were producing more utilitarian and domestic items such as bowls, butter dishes and fruit stands, mainly in silver and silver plate; each hand hammered, and decorated with chasing and embossing, as well as with semi-precious stones. This mature style became known as ‘Ashbee Classic’.
CHARLES ROBERT ASHBEE (1863-1942) (designer)THE GUILD OF HANDICRAFT LTD (maker)
A SET OF SALT AND PEPPERS, C.1900
unmarked, with a Dutch import mark
peppers 6.5 cm 2 ½ inches (2);
salts 3.5 cm 1 3/8 inches (2)
Charles Ashbee, An unusually long silver spoon , 1903
FOOTED BOWL, 1900
stamped 'GofH Ltd, London', date letter 'e'
15 x 10 cm 5 7/8 x 4 inches
CHARLES ROBERT ASHBEE (1863-1942) (designer)
THE GUILD OF HANDICRAFT LTD (maker)
TEA CADDY, 1900
stamped 'GofH Ltd, London', date letter 'e'
sterling silver and enamel
12.5 x 10 cm 4 7/8 x 4 inches
This tea caddy dates from the Guild’s early years in Essex House in Mile End Road, East London, which was a period of continuous expansion and experimentation. Although most of the workers Ashbee employed were unskilled apprentices, the results they produced were far from amateur. This caddy in particular demonstrates a sophisticated approach to silver working and design. The motifs are interesting in their depictions of dolphins, whose whimsical, wide-open mouths appear to reference designs from the earlier years of the Guild, when the workshops were under the guidance of John Pearson.
CLARE ATWOOD (1866–1962)
DAWN BREAKING AT OLD BILLINGSGATE, 1910
signed and dated
oil on canvas
91.4 x 76.2 cm 36 x 30.5 inches
Provenance: Private collection, USA
Exhibited: Tate Britain, Queer British Art 1861-1967, London, 5 April-1 October 2017
Early one morning in 1910, from high in the rafters at London’s Billingsgate Fish Market, Clare Atwood painted the start of the working day. Atwood deftly captures the feverish movement of the fishermen and market vendors, who tussle in half-light, at close-quarters, beneath the towering industrial architecture and monumental fluted columns. The vertiginous perspective and framing of the drama below allude to the theatre. Atwood used a similar viewpoint in her painting of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree rehearsing 'Henry VIII' at His Majesty's Theatre, now in the V&A Museum, which was completed in the same year as this. The atmosphere and playful perspective also share the spirit of her contemporaries, most notably Sickert.
On the one hand Atwood’s training and artistic career is a familiar success story, albeit exceptional for a woman artist. She studied at the Slade under Professor Frederick Brown and Henry Tonks, on leaving she exhibited regularly with the New English Art Club where she became a member in 1912. Atwood’s work was also accepted by the RA, where she exhibited in 1907, 1908 and 1909. She was one of the few women artists to receive official commissions during the First World War, including a commission from the Imperial War Museum of Victoria Station and Devonshire House. In her personal life she was more radical for the time. After the war she cohabited in a same-sex ménage à trois with the actress and theatre director Edith ‘Edy’ Craig and Christabel Marshall, the suffragette, playwright and author, who took the name ‘Chris St. John’. Living in the heart of the West End theatre scene, Atwood, Craig and Marshall were highly social and culturally engaged. They hosted the first gatherings of The Pioneer Players, a Suffragist theatre troop and socialised with the literary Bloomsbury Group, especially Vita Sackville-West. Despite being highly regarded by her peers, her shy character, gender and unconventional social life as a queer, polyamorous woman perhaps cost her the critical acclaim she deserves.
SPENCER FREDERICK GORE (1878-1914)
A GARDEN SQUARE IN CAMDEN TOWN, 1910
oil on canvas
52 x 60 cm 20 1/2 x 23 5/8 inches
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by John Quinn, New York, 1911; His sale, American Art Association, New York, 10 February 1927 (lot 228), where acquired by S. Lustgarten; Christie's London, 23 November 1993 (lot 57); Christie's London, 5 March 1999 (lot 26), where acquired by the present owner
Literature: Forbes Watson (intro.), The John Quinn Collection of Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings and Sculpture,
(New York 1927) p.17
Spencer Gore lived at 31 Mornington Crescent in north London for two years before his marriage in 1912. He was a neighbour of his friend Walter Sickert, at number 6, who he had met in Dieppe in 1904 along with Lucien Pissarro. During the brief time Gore lived there he painted Mornington Crescent Gardens on several occasions. He often chose to paint these scenes from above, out of the front windows of the house, as with the current work. According to scholar Wendy Baron it is very likely that the present work depicts these Gardens, though it was not specified. In Frank Rutter’s Sunday Times review of Gore’s solo exhibition at the Chenil Galleries in 1911, the critic drew particular attention to Gore’s Mornington Crescent pictures.
'It is the hall-mark of the true artist that he does not have to wander far afield in search of beauty. He finds it ever waiting for him at his own door, as Mr. Gore has found in his exquisite Mornington Crescent series. To many, I opine, his radiant visions of what is usually held to be a drab and sordid neighbourhood will come as a revelation – a revelation, let us hope, not merely of the beauty of Camden Town but of the greater fact that beauty is not an external phenomenon but something a man carries about with him in his own soul. There are many joyous, expressive paintings in the series.’
It was upon seeing Roger Fry’s first Post-Impressionist exhibitions of 1910, and in particular being inspired by Gauguin and Derain, that his style would develop in that direction. Fry would later include him in the second Post-Impressionist exhibition of 1912, and in 1913 Gore organised the exhibition of ‘English Post-Impressionists, Cubists and Others’ that brought together the varied factions of the London avant-garde. This palette is typical of the vivid orange, green, and purple he used in many pictures. It also shows the influence of Lucien Pissarro’s divisionist technique: using separate small dots and strokes of colour that interact optically, making the composition spontaneous and dynamic.
WALTER RICHARD SICKERT (1860–1942)
signed and dated
oil on canvas
51 x 40.5 cm 20 x 16 inches
Provenance: Martin Oliphant; Sotheby’s 26 November 1969 (346); Rutland Gallery; Mrs Dudley Samuel; Her sale Christie’s 27.3.97 (36); Private collection, UK
Literature: Wendy Baron, Sickert, (Phaidon 1973) no.352, g.248; Wendy Baron & Richard Shone, Sickert Paintings, (Yale1992) p.244, pg.169; Wendy Baron, Sickert Paintings & Drawings, (Yale 2006) pp.427–28, no.447
Sickert made a number of paintings and drawings of a young model, Emily Powell, playing the grand piano in his studio during the first winter of World War I. They are informally and loosely painted in thin washes of oil. His model was the daughter of his studio landlord and a chorus girl at the Royal Opera House who he nick-named ‘Chicken’. He titled several of these paintings, including an example in the Tate collection, after the popular marching song 'It's a Long Way to Tipperary'.
As Baron suggests, this could be the painting Sickert referred to in a letter to his close friend Miss Ethel Sands saying 'Chicken has been playing the Contes d’Hoffman while I have been painting her reflection at the piano'. Where other studies show only the pianist, this work employs a highly inventive composition which depicts the actual and reflected worlds side by side. These parallel realities divide gendered roles and spaces in wartime: the female figure is at leisure, in the interior, whilst the male figure is a soldier in uniform looking out to the public arena.
From the 1850s improvements in technology enhanced mirror glass’ clarity and quality and lowered production costs. Consequently, its presence in everyday urban life is more pervasive. By the late nineteenth century, the mirror motif permeates avant-garde art starting most notably with Edouard Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère. Few artists, however, use the mirror as a pictorial trope as frequently as Sickert. Like Manet’s famous example, Sickert employs the use of a mirror to create truth-bending compositional effects that verge on the uncanny. Examples include Little Dot Hetherington at the Bedford Music Hall, The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery and The P.S. Wings in an O.P. Mirror. They splice through the canvas offering up two worlds: the viewer and the performer, the subject and the object, reality and the reflected world. On top of this is Sickert the artist, once removed, as the ultimate observer.
WALTER RICHARD SICKERT (1860–1942)
THE TOAST, ‘TRELAWNY OF THE WELLS’
oil on canvas
46.3 x 38.1 cm 18 x 15 ¼ inches
Provenance: André Gide; with Leicester Galleries, London, 1952, where purchased by Hugh ‘Binkie’ Beaumont; with Noel Coward by 1960; Christie’s, 19 March 2015; Private Collection, bequeathed to the present owner
Exhibited: Glaspalast, Offizieller Katalog der Münchener Jahresausstellung, Munich, 1903, as 'Wein, Weib und Gesang’; Galerie Cardo, Walter R. Sickert, Paris, November - December 1930, (57), as 'Scène du Théâtre’; Leicester Galleries, New Year Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture by Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Artists, London , January 1952, (56)
Literature: Lillian Browse, Sickert, Rupert Hart-Davis, (London 1960) p. 64, illus. pl.12; Wendy Baron, Sickert, (Phaidon Press 1973) no. 79; Denys Sutton, Walter Sickert, A Biography, (Michael Joseph 1976) p. 90; Wendy Baron, Sickert, Paintings & Drawings, (Yale 2006) p. 215, illus. no.98.2
The scene depicted by Sickert occurs early in Arthur Wing Pinero’s romantic farcical comedy 'Trelawny of the ‘Wells'', when Irene Vanbrugh in the title role, stands on a chair to announce her departure to the rest of the company. As married life beckons, she proudly declares that being known as ‘Trelawny of the Wells’ will be her greatest accolade.
Sickert obtained a photograph of the toast scene as an aide-memoire for his recreation of the most memorable scene in the play. This is likely to have formed the basis for this painting. Sickert’s use of photographs in the early months of 1898 came six years after his attack on his contemporaries’ over-reliance on the medium. Back in 1892 he coined the word ‘photorealism’ to refer to followers of Bastien-Lepage who were, in his opinion resorting to slavish transcriptions of camera lens effects. The tacit assumption was that, 'if photography, instead of yielding little proofs on paper in black and white, could yield large proofs on canvas in oils, the occupation of the painter would be gone.'
It comes as a surprise then that in the ‘Trelawny’ sequence, photography should assume such an important role. Sickert transcribes the toast scene by indicating a modern spotlight on the central group of players. The picture, which Lillian Browse describes as ‘fascinating and somewhat curious’, uncannily anticipates his closer engagement with the medium in later years. By the 1930s, photographs and prints had become his principal visual source, and their transcription, aided by squaring-up, was a basic procedure. In terms of métier, this canvas is of great significance.
We are grateful to Professor Kenneth McConkey for this entry.
JOSEPH EDWARD SOUTHALL (1861-1944)
BRIGS ON THE FOWEY ESTUARY, C.1919
oil on panel
35.5 x 20 cm 14 x 8 inches
Provenance: Lady Head; The Fine Art Society, London; Mr and Mrs Alan Fortunoff; The Fine Art Society, London, 2005;
Private collection, UK
Exhibited: The Fine Art Society, Spring, London, 1989 (41); The Fine Art Society and Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, Sixty Works by Joseph Southall from the Fortunoff Collection, London, 2005 (25)
The painting of Mixtow, a hamlet on the Fowey Estuary upstream of the town of Fowey, is where Joseph Southall frequently stayed over several decades. Though always stylised in his approach, Southall here pushes his artistic license to the full in respect of the Cornish landscape and the scale of the china-clay carrying sailing ships. The effect is whimsical and verging on surreal. Some of the artist’s most celebrated works were painted around the Estuary, many now to be found in public collections including The Old Seaport in Manchester Art Gallery.
The work is a rare painting in oil by the artist, who dedicated himself to the use of tempera inspired by early Italian renaissance art. In 1901 Southall was a founder member of the Society of Painters in Tempera, whose members also included Walter Crane and Roger Fry. As well as aiming to restore morality to art, the group yearned for a ‘purity of vision and form’ that was lacking in the more popular Impressionist movement.1 In spite of painting being in oil rather than tempera, the picture retains the crisp delicacy and chalky quality so familiar in Southall’s work.
1.Hannah Spooner, Pure painting: Joseph Southall, Christiana Herringham and the Tempera Revival, The British Art Journal , (Summer 2003) Vol.4, No.2 p.49
ETHELBERT WHITE (1891-1972)
SOMERSET LANDSCAPE, C.1922-3
oil on canvas
61 x 50.8 cm 24 x 20 inches
Ethelbert White’s concern during the interwar years was capturing the essence of the English countryside. His work, although figurative, taps into a deeper rhythm of the ancient world, which he conveyed through the bouncing stylised curves of tree and hill tops. White adds his own touch of the surreal through his striking use of colour.
Unfortunately, White’s work has been largely overlooked since his lifetime but during his career he was a key player in the art scene and a larger-than-life character. Early on, White dabbled with Vorticism; he was a member of The London Group; elected exhibitor of the New English Art Club; and latterly he was elected to the Society of Wood Engravers and the more radical English Wood Engraving Society. His work absorbed the influence of his contemporaries Charles Ginner and Ernest Bevan and he counted Mark Gertler and Christopher Nevinson as close friends.
In possession of independent family wealth, White did not have to worry about commercial viability nor societal convention. He dropped out of St John’s Wood Art School after eighteen months, later explaining: ‘unable to learn the craft of an artist's trade there, I went into the country to work out the problems by experimenting and working by myself.' With his wife he lived a modest but bohemian life. Their home was a small 18th century cottage in Hampstead Grove, Camden. They spent their time travelling the British countryside in a horse-drawn, gypsy caravan.
The gaiety and eccentricity of their lifestyle feeds into his artworks with a naïve charm. Though he was heralded as ‘a modern primitive’ by the painter and critic R.H. Wilenski, he was equally dismissed by Clive Bell as a ‘native hedgerow artist’. It is too easy to sum up White’s work as a romanticised record of a changing rural landscape. Rather we should appreciate the singular aesthetic that he developed.
BERTRAM NICHOLLS (1883-1974)
A COTTAGE IN TUSCANY, 1924
signed and dated
oil on canvas
38.5 x 32.8 cm 15 ¼ x 12 7/8 inches
As a student, Bertram Nicholls excelled academically, however, upon leaving school he showed no inclination to do anything except 'mess about with paints'. He enrolled at The Slade in 1908, where he learnt the discipline of drawing but found that he couldn’t relate to most of the fashionable ideas that were being taught. During the war, Nicholls served in the Royal Flying Corps, but lost no time getting back to his painting following the Armistice. He began an exhaustive study of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ technical methods and experiments and when, in 1920, Brighton Art Gallery hosted a Richard Wilson exhibition, Nicholls travelled there almost every day.
His early works are a demonstration of these classical techniques, and he was soon recognised at the Royal Academy in London. His first solo success came at Barbizon House in 1924. The exhibition of twenty-seven oils sold out before the opening night. The pictures of the exhibition were split evenly between England and Italy. The Italian subjects were mostly produced in Volterra, a mountaintop town in Tuscany, which Nicholls had visited in the spring prior to the exhibition. Frank Rutter observed that ‘in these the artist revealed his deep feeling for the beauty of ruins and Italian architecture as well as that sense of style which dignified all his work.’ He would go on to have three further exhibitions at Barbizon House, as well as exhibiting regularly at the Royal Academy and the Manchester Academy of Fine Art.
GEORGE LESLIE HUNTER (1877-1931)
THE BEACH, JUAN-LES-PINS, 1927
signed and dated 'L. Hunter. 27'
oil on canvas
61 x 76 cm 24 x 30 inches
George Leslie Hunter worked from the French Riviera 1927-29, having first visited in 1926. On his first trip he based himself at St-Paul-de-Vence, taking rooms at the Auberge de la Colombe d'Or, but regularly took painting trips along the coast to Antibes, St Tropez, Toulon and even as far as Marseilles. Juan-les-Pines quickly became one of his favourite locations. It was a fashionable resort, not far from Nice, and popular with artists, including Picasso who holidayed there often throughout the 1920s. Dominating the background of this picture is a large white hotel, very likely the Hôtel Le Provençal that at its zenith attracted the glitterati to the Côte d’Azur and is featured in many of Hunter’s paintings of the time.
The dark waters and greyed skies of this painting suggest a sultry summers’ day rather than the light, bright atmosphere of his other oils and particularly his sketches from the same beach. An example in the National Galleries of Scotland of one of the hundreds of lively drawings he made shows how Hunter employed brightly-coloured crayons to express the cavorting and jollity of holidaymakers. This painting however captures the everyday workings behind the fun, as a fishing boat is pulled onto the beach with workers resting rather lolling under parasols. Yet the zingy flashes of pink, green and yellow across the canvas attest to the colourful beauty of the place which Hunter so admired.
JULIAN TREVELYAN (1910-1988)
MOUNTAIN VILLAGE, ITALY, 1930
oil on board
32 x 40.5 cm 12 5/8 x 16 inches
Gregarious by nature, painting for Julien Trevelyan was as much about the experience of people and places as it was about artistic accomplishment and financial success. After completing his studies at Cambridge, he travelled widely throughout Europe visiting Holland and much of northern Germany before heading south to discover the Mediterranean and country familiar to him only through the work of Italian masters such as Piero della Francesca, Sassetta, and Giovanni di Paolo.
Trevelyan recalled the experience of the time he had spent at the Villa I Tatti in Florence, Italy, with his father and his friend the art historian, Bernard Berenson: ‘I remember still the excitement of my first arrival in a Mediterranean landscape; I had dreamt about it and seen it already to some extent through the eyes of Cezanne and Van Gogh, but the reality exceeded all my expectations. In contrast to the fir covered wastes of Holland and North Germany, which were all that I had so far experienced of foreign travel, here was a land where one could feel the very bones and structure. A stream was a real thing that could be seen rising in a cleft in the rocks, and on the rolling plains the red earth receded in vistas of little rounded hummock.’1
Berenson was a friend but as a connoisseur and scholar of early Italian Renaissance painting he became a vital mentor to Trevelyan. He taught him to appreciate the landscape and introduced him into a new way of seeing the world through fresh eyes.
1. Julian Trevelyan, Indigo Days, (Macgibbon & Kee, 1957) p.33
DENHAM MACLAREN (1903-1989)
glass, chrome fittings, and leather upholstery
68 x 57 x 85 cm 26 ¾ x 22 ½ x 33 ½ inches
Literature: Victoria and Albert Museum, British Art and Design, 1900–1960, (London 1983) p.128; Paul Greenhalgh, British Modern Furniture Designers, (Antique Collecting 1992) p. 7, fig.5; Christopher Wilk (ed.), Western Furniture 1350 to the Present Day, (London 1996) pp. 208–09; Malcolm Baker and Brenda Richardson, (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, (London 1997) p. 344; Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton and Ghislaine Wood (eds.), Art Deco 1910-1939, exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum, (London 2004) p. 352, fig.33.5
Denham Maclaren’s use of glass and metal fixtures in furniture design was largely inspired by his shop display and exhibition work for interior designer Arundell Clarke in the late 1920s. The metal fittings used for this chair were more commonly applied in shop outfits. Maclaren only produced a limited number of furniture designs in the 1920s and 30s but they captured the spirit of European modernism much more than his British contemporaries. His design for a man’s bathroom at Waring and Gillow’s ‘Modern Art in French and English Furniture and Decoration’ exhibition of 1928, which launched Art Deco in England, was deemed one of the triumphs of the event. His designs were publicly very well received. Madge Garland, fashion editor at Vogue, described him as ‘the most prominent of a new generation of designers’ and the artist Paul Nash declared he was the ‘designer who came nearest to expressing the modern spirit. whose individuality distinguished him from the merely clever or the merely dull’.
This remarkably rare glass chair is an excellent example of Maclaren’s highly sophisticated design aesthetic which married Hollywood luxury with the austere formality of modernism. Its progressiveness redefined the parameters of design vocabulary. Only three examples of this chair are believed to have survived and one of those with a zebra hide and mane is in the V&A collection.
PROFESSOR ROBERT GOODDEN (1909-2001) (DESIGNER)
W.E CHANCE LTD. ENGLAND (MANUFACTURER)
FRUIT SET, 1934
clear pressed glass, comprising one large serving bowl, one lidded jar and six smaller
bowls and one small lidded bowl
respectfully: 8.5 x 24.3 cm 3 3/8 x 9 ½ inches; 16 x 10 cm 6 ¼ x 4 inches;
5 x 12.1 cm 2 x 4 ¾ inches; and 11 x 12.1 cm 4 3/8 x 4 ¾ inches
Ben Nicholson OM, ‘Princess’ Textile , c.1933
LILL TSCHUDI (1911-2004)
IN THE CIRCUS, conceived 1932
signed and titled in pencil; numbered 20/50, from the USA edition 1950
24 x 26 cm 9 7/16 x 10 1/4 inches
Reference: Coppel lt23
Exhibited: The Fine Art Society, The Best Shop in London Part II, London, 2001 (134)
In late 1929, at the age of eighteen, the Swiss born Lill Tschudi moved to London to enrol at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art. Her spell there was short, lasting little more than six months, however she was tenacious in her studies and prolific in her output, producing over 350 linocuts during her lifetime. She studied linocutting under Claude Flight, who had run the school with Iain Macnab since 1925. Flights formal and abstract visual language was an important influence on Tschudi’s printing practice, which she had first seen in the work of the Austrian born Norbertine Bresslern-Roth, whose energetic studies of animals in motion had a clear impact on her own work.
Like Sybil Andrews and Cyril Power, her contemporaries at the Grosvenor, Tschudi’s lino cuts typically depict vibrant scenes of sporting events, busy London street scenes, circuses and gymnasts. These works capture the dynamism and movement that is associated with the Vorticists. Although the Vorticist movement had grown in Britain during the interwar period, it had by that point diffused its more radical doctrinal approach to modern art, owing to the First World War, but its aesthetic influences were still largely appreciated well into the 1930s. Tschudi left for Paris after leaving the school, but maintained a constant connection with Britain throughout her life, exhibiting and selling most of her work with the help of Flight, who remained her close friend throughout.
EDWARD BAWDEN (1903–1989) (designer)
CURWEN PRESS LTD., ENGLAND (printer)
colour lithograph on paper
92 x 60 cm 36 ¼ x 23 5/8 inches
The Essex born Edward Bawden excelled as a painter, printmaker, illustrator and designer, and was prolific in all these media. Having studied at the Cambridge School of Art he went on to the Royal College of Art, London, to train alongside Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, as well as his close friends Eric Ravilious and Douglas Percy Bliss.
His watercolours and etchings are well known, but less so are the pattern papers and wallpapers he designed from 1926 for the lithography studios of the Curwen Press, John Aldridge, and Cole & Son. Salver belongs to a group of four wallpapers commissioned by the Curwen Press in 1932. Known as the 'Plaistow' wallpapers they were originally produced as relatively inexpensive alternatives to the other wallpapers. The prints playfully depicted abstract motifs characterised largely by their surreal imagery and appropriately intriguing names, including Node, part of a plant stem, Façade and Ashlar, the graphic pattern of square-cut stones.
JESSICA DISMORR (1885-1939)
MOTHER AND CHILD, c.1932
oil on gesso board
61 x 47 cm 24 x 18 ½ inches
Jessica Dismorr came from a large and wealthy family that was also rich in artistic ability. As a result, she and her four sisters, were given the freedom to develop their creative talents like few people of her time; studying at the Slade School of Art and going on to study at the private Académie de La Palette, Paris. Amongst the many influential teachers there at the time were the artists Jean Metzinger, André Dunoyer de Segonzac and J.D. Fergusson. Despite none of them belonging to a movement at the time, their practice was definitively post-impressionist, and undoubtedly impacted on the young Dismorr.
Dismorr enjoyed an active social life and had no desire to settle down: from an early age she decided against having children. In later years, Dismorr came to feel that she had 'taken the good things, security, good food, clothes, the absence of daily bread-winning, without sufficient thought, without giving an adequate return'. This perspective makes the present work all the more poignant, as an updated depiction of the embrace between mother and child that extends beyond the traditional iconography of the Madonna and child. Here the mother with her firm jaw and physical power is almost a precursor to the ‘We Can Do It’ pin ups which would later follow the outbreak of the Second World War. It is a portrait of female individuality and strength, brought about from a life of independence.
DORIS ZINKEISEN (1898-1991)
MEVAGISSEY, CORNWALL, c.1934
oil on canvas
42 x 52 cm 16 ½ x 20 ½ inches
Exhibited: The Royal Academy, as Mevagissey Harbour, London, 1934 (76)
This is a rarely seen landscape by an artist best known for cut-glass glamour of 1920s and 30s society portraits and dramatic theatre designs. The Cornish scene marks an infrequent adoption of Cubist principles as opposed to Zinkeisen’s more typical glistening realism. It is more painterly than other works but the composition is equally rigorous. The success of the canvas is in the rhythmic flow of the horizontal and vertical forms coupled with her subtle modelling and colour scheme. Though a rare departure for Zinkeisen it has all the elegance of her oeuvre.
Like many female artists working at the beginning of the twentieth century, Zinkeisen’s work traversed the boundaries between fine, decorative and commercial art. Working very closely with her sister Anna, whom she shared a studio with, Zinkeisen produced poster designs for the likes of Transport for London, painted murals for the ocean liner RMS Queen Mary and was best-known for set, costume and make-up designs for London’s West End shows. Her painted work was eventually to become more serious in content after she was made an official war artist in the Second World War. She was one of the first artists to enter the Belsen camp in April 1945, producing some startling, harrowing images of what she experienced there.
MARCEL LAJOS BREUER (1902-1981) (designer)
ISOKON FURNITURE COMPANY (manufacturer)
ISOKON DINING CHAIR, 1936
birch ply with Queensland walnut laminate
75 x 41.4 x 51.5 cm 29 7/8 x 16 1/4 x 20 1/4 inches
Literature: David Joel, The Adventure of British Furniture 1851-1951, (Ernest Benn Limited 1953), illus. p.210; Derek Ostergard, Bent Wood and Metal Furniture 1850-1946, (University of Washington Press 1953); Dunn / Mantz, Gerald Summers: Furniture For the Concrete Age, (Assembly books 2012); Leyla Daybelge & Magnus Englund, Isokon and the Bauhaus in Britain, (Pavilion Books 2019); Alistair Ian Grieve, Isokon For Ease, For ever, (Isokon Books 2004) p.35
This chair was one of the first commissions Marcel Breuer received after emigrating from Germany in 1936. Having studied and taught at the Bauhaus school of art, Breuer won the commission through the school’s founder Walter Gropius, by then head of design for Isokon owned by British furniture entrepreneur, Jack Pritchard. Breuer was asked to translate some of his earlier designs in metal into plywood, the soft forms and warm colour of which suited the British Modernist taste. The plywood version of his aluminium chaise, the Isokon Long Chair, went on to become an icon of twentieth-century furniture design.
The Isokon dining chair, however, has no precedent in Breuer’s earlier work. It was born out of a desire to construct the ultimate minimalist chair but due to the difficulty of manufacturing eventually required nine separate elements. Despite this, the chair remained very fragile and thus few survived the test of time. The chairs were said to be used in the bar and restaurant, Isobar, of Jack Pritchard’s Isokon Building, Lawn Road Flats in Hampstead, Britain’s first modernist building designed by architect Wells Coates. The chair can be found in several international museums, including two examples in the V&A collection.
GERALD SUMMERS (1899-1967) (designer)
MAKERS OF SIMPLE FURNITURE (manufacturer)
DINNER WAGON, 1935 (manufactured 1935-1939)
66 x 41 x 71 cm 26 x 16 x 28 inches
Literature: Noel Carrington, Design and Decoration in the Home, (London 1952) p.36; Martha Deese, Gerald Summers and Makers of Simple Furniture, Journal of Design History (1992), Vol.5 No.3 p.193, p.195; Dunn / Mantz, Gerald Summer: Furniture for the Concrete Age, (Assembly books 2011) p.130, p.164, p.165, p.206; Martha Dees, Shaped For Purpose, (Graham Foundation 2020)
This dinner wagon was one of the first designs to be marketed by Gerald Summers’ design company Maker of Simple Furniture in 1935. Summers’ idea for the company came from his desire to make simple plywood furniture of his own design for his future wife, Marjorie Butcher. Their first sales were to Mr. Rose of Rose and Blairman, a women’s clothing wholesaler, who mistook their workshop for a showroom after seeing their designs through the window.
The company was formally founded in 1934. As well as retailing in major department stores including Heal’s and Harrods, they also supplied furnishings for Jack Pritchard’s Isokon Building. The wagon lives up to the company’s name and ideals, being entirely designed for its function by allowing easy access to the bottom rack through cantilevered c-shaped side panels. It was one of six entries by the company that were accepted and shown at the prestigious Royal Academy’s exhibition of British Art in Industry held at Burlington House that same year. There it received a warm reception, one reviewer praised, ‘it is excellently proportioned, meticulously finished and moves (I ran about, shamelessly), without a hint of noise or fuss on the best looking castors I have ever seen on an article of the kind. Give me six guineas and it’s mine tomorrow – and economic considerations can go hang.’
GERALD SUMMERS (1899-1967) (designer)
MAKERS OF SIMPLE FURNITURE (manufacturer)
BATHROOM MIRROR, c.1939
plywood, sycamore, mirror glass
85 x 74 x 13 cm 33 ½ x 29 1/8 x 5 1/8 inches
Literature: Dunn / Mantz, Gerald Summers: Furniture for the Concrete Age, (Assembly books, Reprint 2020) p.367; Martha Deese, Shaped for Purpose, (Graham Foundation 2020)
What is singular and differentiating about Summers' output, is how he constantly ennobled the ordinary. He saw beauty in the everyday, creating many ingenious re-interpretations of mirrors, cake trays, towel rails, stationery boxes, sewing baskets, bookends, magazine stands and even coal scuttles. This recently discovered plywood mirror is another example of the marriage between sculpture and utility in Summers’ work.
The exceptionally tight curve of the cabinet was made possible due to the development of a new plywood variant ‘aeroplane ply’. Specifically developed in the aircraft industry and advanced in its thinness and flexibility. The seemingly impossibly curved end of the mirror highlights the use of aeroplane ply. The scale of the mirror is unusually large for its modest function and each element is carefully considered down to the screws and the use of sycamore. The mirror will be included in the revised catalogue raisonne Gerald Summers: Furniture for the Concrete Age by Dunn / Mantz - a comprehensive, annotated listing of all known pieces of furniture by Gerald Summers and Makers of Simple Furniture.
DAVID BOMBERG (1890-1957)
LANDSCAPE, CORNWALL, 1947
oil on paper
30.5 x 42 cm 12 x 16 1/2 inches
The years immediately following the Second World War took their toll on David Bomberg. Not only had he witnessed the near destruction of London, his home since he was five years old, his creative pursuits struggled to find him the recognition he had enjoyed before the war. An unlikely tonic to the vicissitude of city life came from two trips to Devon and Cornwall in the summers of 1946 and 1947, where this landscape originates.
In August 1947 Bomberg and his wife, Lillian, went on a six-week camping trip to the Atlantic coast of Cornwall, staying on farmland not far from St Ives where his good friend Ben Nicholson lived with Barbara Hepworth. Despite the proximity to his artistic allies, Bomberg was resolute that he must work alone, and took lengthy walks along the wind battered coast to capture the landscape at its most dramatic.
The land around where they stayed is much the same today - thin strips of land with endless expanses of sky, and seashores left unspoilt and rocky, with spectacular headlands and coastal formations. Landscape, Cornwall is one of a number of compositions from this time which made use of a warm range of colours, particularly oranges and ochres, broadly applied, to which he included sudden flashes of colour in his distinctive graphic and closeted style. Bomberg believed that when working from nature, the artist should execute it in such a way that demonstrates his or her own temperament and mode of production.
JOHN MINTON (1917-1957)
PORTRAIT OF ERIC VERRICO, 1947-8
signed, inscribed 'John Minton Italian Boy, Oil 1947-8', verso
oil on canvas
107 x 82 cm 42 x 32 inches
Provenance: The Lefevre Galleries, London; Collection of Muriel Belcher; Collection of Basil Wright Esq; Christie’s, London, 13 December 1961, as Portrait of Eric Verigo (lot 238); Christie’s, London, 26 May 1995 (lot 8); Private collection UK; The Fine Art Society, London, 2007; Where bought by current owner
Exhibited: New Burlington Galleries, London, Manchester City Art Gallery, Manchester, Arts Council Festival of Britain, British Painting 1925-1950: First Anthology, May-July 1951, as The Italian Boy (45); Tate Gallery, London; travelled to Towner Art Gallery and Museum, Eastbourne; Blackburn Art Gallery, Blackbur; Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham; Bristol City Art Gallery, Bristol; Victoria Street Art Gallery, Nottingham, Arts Council commemorative exhibition, John Minton 1917-1957, An Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Illustrations, October 1958-April 1959 (12)
Portrait of Eric Verrico is a major work from a series of portraits of the sitter executed by John Minton between 1945-48. This portrait has rarely been exhibited in the last five decades since the artist’s Commemorative Exhibition in 1958, when it was in the possession of the notorious Soho club owner, Muriel Belcher. The work is concerned with the transience of youth and beauty, a significant theme of Minton’s oeuvre. This piece is comparable in scale and quality to some of the artist’s best portraits now held in museums, and is a particularly fine example of Minton’s output in years following the end of the Second World War including Portrait Group, 1945 (Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel); Cornish Boy at a Window, 1948 (Government Art Collection, London); Boy in a Landscape (Eric Verrico), 1948 (Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter) and Robert Hunt, 1947 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool).
Minton’s portraits were always of people he was close to and often of those he was attracted to. In a 1952 lecture, the artist explained: ‘I do not believe you can paint any old thing…It will only happen if it is really done with love.’ Eric Verrico was one amongst a group of young people in Minton’s expansive and diverse social circle, known as ‘Johnny’s Circus’, who were painted by him in the post-war years. He became close to a number of his students whilst teaching and through his paintings of them he struggles with his legitimacy as a figurative artist and his desire to remain relevant to a younger generation. The portraits he produced from 1946 to 1949 are a potent demonstration of portraiture as anxious expression. The self-reflection of the sitters and the ‘touching and melancholy impermanence of all physical beauty’ can be read as autobiographical. In this work he has even manipulated Verrico’s facial features to look closer to his own.
DENIS MITCHELL (1912-1993)
ABSTRACT COMPOSITION, 1951
signed and dated
24.8 x 25.2 cm 9 ¾ x 9 7/8 inches
Provenance: Reba and Dave Williams, 2004
Exhibited: The Fine Art Society, British Prints 1945-70, London, 2004 (23)
Originally from Wales, in 1930 Denis Mitchell moved to Cornwall aged eighteen settling in a hamlet near St Ives. Life on the windswept coastal landscape provided the catalyst for Mitchell to paint between his numerous jobs as a labourer in the area. In 1949 he was introduced to Barbara Hepworth, who took him on as an assistant at her newly acquired Trewyn Studio. A position that had meant to be a short-term roll, which eventually lasted ten years.
Through Hepworth, Mitchell became familiar with the St. Ives artist community, particularly the group that became known as The Penwith Society of Arts. This included Ben Nicholson and Peter Lanyon as well as a host of other artists working outside of the more established traditional remit of the St Ives Society of Artists. In the following decade, Mitchell embraced abstraction in his art and began to experiment outside the medium of oils. Taking his lead from Hepworth, he produced sculpture as well as prints. In the 1950s he set up his own screen-printing studio, Porthia Prints, which produced domestic items incorporating abstract design such as table mats, many of which were marketed through Heals of London.
Abstract Composition belonged the superb collection of twentieth-century British prints acquired through the unerring eye of Reba and Dave Williams. The collection featured many prominent artists particular to the British avant-garde, including William Scott, Howard Hodgkin and Adrian Heath.
WILLIAM SCOTT (1913-1989)
FISH ON A PLATE (ALSO KNOWN AS 'FISH'), 1951
initialled 'WS' in the stone; printed by Millers Press, privately published in an edition of
38 x 49.7 cm 15 x 19 ½ inches
sheet 48.4 x 57.3 cm 19 1/8 x 22 5/8 inches
Provenance: Reba and Dave Williams, 2004
Literature: British Council, Out of Print, British Printmaking 1946-76, (London 1994) illus. p.26, (26)
William Scott is an artist with a trademark: the black iron skillet. Other culinary motifs associated with the artist were fish and pears. In 1959 aware of his indelible connection with the frying pan he dismissed their importance. 'I think these things are completely uninteresting. That's why I paint them. They convey nothing. There is no meaning to them at all, but they are a means to making a picture.’ Much later he admitted a more intimate relationship with them describing them as ‘the symbols of the life I knew best’. Both the skillet and the fish that they cooked were images of his home and childhood in Enniskillen, where every household possessed such a pan to eat locally caught fish.1
Scott was a master at depicting the simplicity of objects. His work from the 1950s tantalisingly treads the line between figuration and abstraction, eventually veering off into total abstraction. In this lithograph, even more so than the painting of the same subject, he has satisfyingly simplified the forms of the still life to the bear minimum. Only printed in an unsigned edition of 20 and published privately, this print is very rare.
1.Sarah Whitfield, Beyond the frying pan, in Irish Arts Review, (September - November 2013) p. 98
ALFRED BURGESS READ (1898-1973) (DESIGNER)
TROUGHTON & YOUNG LTD., ENGLAND (MANUFACTURER)
anodised aluminium shade and stem, steel base, enamelled black
38 x 38 x 38 cm 15 x 15 x 15 inches
GEORGE CARWARDINE (1887-1947) (DESIGNER)
HERBERT TERRY & SONS (MANUFACTURER)
‘ANGLEPOISE’ LAMP 1227, 1938
metal, Bakelite switch mechanism, designed 1935
maximum height 95.5 cm 37 5/8 inches ; width 47 cm 18 ½ inches
base 15 x 15 cm 5 7/8 x 5 7/8 inches
Literature: A. B. Read, Lighting the Home, Country Life, (London 1937) illus p.53
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