Taste (is) the death of a painterThe more our art is serious, the more will it tend to avoid the drawing room and stick to the kitchen. The plastic arts are gross arts, dealing joyously in gross material factswhile they will flourish in the scullery, or on the dunghill, they fade at a breath from the drawing-room.' Walter Sickert
A spine runs through some of the most radical figurative art in Britain of the twentieth century. Its backbone is drawing and its fibre art school teaching, yet it is the distinct personalities of each artist that provide the meat.
From Walter Sickert to Tony Bevan, what impresses one most is not their conformity to any prescribed method or idiom, nor any slavish veneration of the past or adulation of a teacher, but rather each artists' individual personality. It is the taking of risks that makes their work so challenging.
It is to such modern figuration that this exhibition is devoted. It presents work by some of the greatest figurative painters working in Britain, from the early years of the twentieth century to the first years of the new millennium. It does so not merely to highlight an art historical phenomenon but also to celebrate some of the most vital and invigorating painting of our own times.
Whilst connections may be made, this exhibition emphasises each artist's distinctive contribution to something that is ongoing, giving emphasis to the central role played by portraiture and the figure. In drawing from life, these artists also build from the art of the past, yet as Auerbach has commented: go along with Eliot, tradition has to be reinvented, remade for every generation. The spring board is Make it New.
The exhibition is accompanied by a major new publication, From Life, including an essay by Wendy Baron and colour illustrations with annotated texts by James Hyman. 96pp, 55 colour plates.
WITH its substantial 96-page catalogue (ISBN 0-9540606-3-6), the
show, entitled From life. Radical figurative art from Sickert to Bevan,
taking place through to October 18 at James Hyman Fine Art, is one
of October's more innovative comevents.
Tucked away from the main St. James's throng in Mason's Yard,
this gallery does much more than just gather a group of works and
plonk them on the wall. This show highlights James Hyman's
scholarly approach - he has a doctorate from the Courtauld Institute
and is the author of several books - and in it he explores the
achievements of some of the most powerful British painters of the
last century. It starts with a group of drawings and oils by Walter
Sickert (1860-1942), including the 1903 canvas Study in Rose,
and continues with examples by the likes of David Bomberg
(1890-1957), William Coldstream (1908-1987), Frank Auerbach
(b.1931) and Euan Uglow (1932-2000).
The above artists have a well-estabished, influential track record, placing their work in
the `gold nugget' category.
ANTHONY J. LESTER "Round the Galleries", Antique Trade Gazette, 4th October 2003
© 2021 James Hyman Gallery, PO Box 72888,
LONDON N2 2FH