This exhibition is built around a kernel of late twentieth century British paintings from the collection of an old and valued client who we sadly lost last year. His son asked us to help with the dispersal of his collection and it was bitter-sweet to be reunited with a few old favourites.
Like all such collections, put together over decades with a fine eclectic eye, it is the very personal expression of one man’s taste. As Tiffany and I began to catalogue the paintings, we were reminded how different the general British art market of the late twentieth century is to today’s. Undoubtedly tastes have changed dramatically, both in the aesthetics of interior design and the shift in preference towards choosing ideas or concepts over painterly ability. I confess to a sense of guilty nostalgia for the pre-Sensation era when contemporary art at the Royal Academy was personified by Professor Ken Howard.
The artists of the day were easily recognisable and pleasingly consistent in their talent and ability, most were (or in some cases still are!) members of the Royal Academy and the New English Art Club. Both were institutions that nurtured a philosophy of art, informed ‘by the visual world and personal interpretation’ but significantly the chief medium of that interpretation was paint.
They were, in their way, the keepers of the flame of this currently neglected area of the art world. In fact, the New English Art Club was formed as a reaction to the entrenched attitudes of the Royal Academy in the 1880s and its members embraced the Parisian avant-garde, particularly impressionism and post-impressionism. Now that the latter movements, more than a century later, have been fully assimilated into mainstream art philosophies they are naturally, in an ironic reversal, considered old hat by the new avante-garde members of the Royal Academy.
The collection contains many on the classic tick list of the time – Ken Howard, Fred Cuming, Peter Kuhfeld, Donald Hamilton Fraser, Jane Corsellis and Donald McIntyre. To these we have added a number of works by artists who either inspired them or who were leading proponents of the style in their day, notably Edward Seago, Mary Fedden, John Ward and Dame Laura Knight. These painters’ reputations have stood the test of time and fashion. Some are still leading lights of the New English Art Club today although the Academy is lost to the anti-painters for the moment. The artists in this exhibition are the hardy perennials of our art world, names whose reputations and values have so far proved impervious to the vicissitudes of fleeting fashion.
- Matthew Hall May 2019
14 May - 31 May 2019
Monday to Friday
10.00 AM - 6.00 PM
BY APPOINTMENT ONLY
CLOSED BANK HOLIDAYS