A HISTORICAL REVIEW OF ENGLISH ART FROM 1900-1940:PART 1.

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In this study  of British Art I am going to be considering the development of British art after the influences of the Pre-Raphaelite movement which challenged art forms in Britain just before the turn of the century. Frances Spalding gives a very good overview of their influences .

” Ever since John Millais’s retrospective at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1886 there had been a revival of interest in Pre-Raphaelitism and Medievalism”.[1]

” The study of Modern life which had earlier inspired the Pre-Raphaelites stiull stiorred intermittingly .it had fired Walter Sickert ( 1800-1942) to extol the magic and poetry to be found in everyday urban settings”. [2].

Spalding continues with her overview pointing out aspects of British Impressionism which really did not have  the more fluid approach of the French.

” Those who continued with the Impressionist style of landscape painting did so with scant regard for the multi-faceted colour and comma-like brushstrokes of true French Impressionism”. [3].

” The British were less animated by scientific enquiry than by a love of naturalistic effects of sunshine and breeze  as found in the Beach by Laura Knight (1877-1970)”. [4].

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Spalding comments about many British artists’s attraction to the work of Jules Bastian-Le Page.

” They were also inspired by the French artist Jules Bastian Le page whose overall grey tonality derives from the even light created by an overcast Sky. his chief apologist in Britain was George Clausen ( 1852-1914)”. [5].

” One who was aware of their (Impressionism ) importance was the critic Frank Rutter”.[6].

Spalding continues with her commentary identifying the importance of John Singer Sargent.

” One of the first to send Rutter a cheque was the American artist John Singer Sargent. he had enjoyed a friendship with Monet in the 1880’s and on a visit to Givenchy had painted the French artist at his easel out of doors”.[7].

In my recent  review of American art and especially discussing Sargent I made  this comment about their friendship.

” Two younger artists who were also to make their reputations through portraiture were Augustus John ( 1878-1961) and the Irishman William Orpen  ( 1878-1931)”. [8].

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Spalding continues her discussion of these early 19th Century painters including of course Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1861-1912).

” Both John and Orpen made a close study of the old masters .They were also skilled draughtsmen  adopting a style which in the vivacity with which pose, gesture and drapery are caught”.[9].

” Lawrence Alma-Tadema ( 1861-1912) excelled in this field domesticity and earned himself immense rewards. his pictures mostly small were finely crafted often in settings that allowed for daring perspectival effects”. [10].

Commenting about Sickert . Spalding shows how he travelled  to Europe and Venice for inspiration in his Art.

” Between 1908-1905 Walter Sickert had divided his time between Dieppe and Venice painting townscapes and immortalising prostitutes in the San Travaso area of Venice”. [11].

All Sickert’s subjects are located in Space by the fall of light. what absorbed him was the flicker of light on the ornate Architecture”.[12].

Venus and Adonis c.1919 by Duncan Grant 1885-1978

Studland Beach. Verso: Group of Male Nudes by Duncan Grant circa 1912 by Vanessa Bell 1879-1961

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Spalding continues with her History of British art commenting on Lucien Pissaro the great French artist.

” Lucien Pissaro ( 1863-1944) specialised in intimate views of rural England, its cottage gardens , copses and Orchards and Membership of the Fitzroy group had little effect on his choice of subject”. [13].

” For the moment Sickert’s chief concern was to rebut the dilettantism and good taste vitiating English art. taste is the death of a Painter , Sickert now declared in Iconoclastic mood”. [14].

Spalding who invests great importance to Sickert and the development of English art comments further.

” One can sense his example behind Harold Gilman’s The Kitchen in which every detail contributes to the stability and coherence of the whole”. [15].

” When the Fitzroy group transformed itself into the more robust  Camden town group Gilman like others began employing stronger and brighter colour”. [16].

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Wings over Water 1930 by Frances Hodgkins 1869-1947

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Harlem 1934 by Edward Burra 1905-1976

Damp Autumn 1941 by Ivon Hitchens 1893-1979

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Spalding now comes on to discuss Post Impressionism which shows her weakness in this area. I would question her description of what  Post Impressionism was.The major Post Impressionists for me who used a scientific approach to art and were Revolutionary in their depictions were Georges Seurat , Paul Signac and Vincent Van Gogh . She  fails to mention any of these and tries to use the authority of Paul Gaugin and Edgar degas who are not post Impressionists. Gaugin was a symbolist painter full of his own self importance.

” There had been a revolt against the major art Institutions . This had taken the form of the allied artists association anon-jury exhibiting salon based on the French example”. [17].

” The only British artists to have responded to post Impressionism prior  to the 1910 exhibitions were Robert Bevan  ( 1865-1925) Roderic O’Connor (1860-1940) JD Ferguson ( 1874-1961) and SJ Peploe ( 1871-1935)”. [18].

Describing the 1910 Exhibition where works by Picasso , Cezanne and Gaugin had been displayed she comments that it was Picasso and the Fauve artist Henri Matisse who dominated the exhibition.

” Whereas in the 1910 show Gaugin Van Gogh and Cezanne had been the chief representatives, The 1912 Exhibition was dominated by the work of Picasso and Matisse”. [19].

” Post Impressionism taught that painting was not a trick dependent on skill and craftsmanship but a language , the grammar and syntax of which themselves were expressive , line colour ,shape space and rhythmic were now to be assessed “.[20].

This completes my first part of my exploration of English art from 1900. in part 2 I will explore further the art of artists like Paul Nash, Wyndham Lewis and Ben Nicholson.

FOOTNOTES

  1. BRITISH ART SINCE 1900 FRANCES SPALDING PG. 13
  2. DITTO.PG.15
  3. DITTO.PG.19
  4. DITTO.PG.20
  5. DITTO.PG.20
  6. DITTO.PG.20
  7. DITTO.PG.21
  8. DITTO.PG.22
  9. DITTO.PG.22
  10. DITTO.PG.27-8
  11. DITTO.PG.31
  12. DITTO.PG.31
  13. DITTO.PG.33
  14. DITTO.PG.33
  15. DITTO.PG.34
  16. DITTO.PG.34
  17. DITTO.PG.37-8
  18. DITTO.PG.38
  19. DITTO.PG.38
  20. DITTO.PG.38-40

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