It’s good that a serious monograph has been devoted to Crawshaw, and not just to Alwyn but to June as well. Alwyn is, of course, well-known and has been part of the practical art scene for many years having written many books. June, however, has only emerged as an artist in her own right relatively recently and she has matured into a painter who has mastered small, intimate scenes, the details that are often overlooked. Although you can see Alwyn’s influence in her work, she has her own recognisable style and the two of them complement each other nicely.
As ever with Halsgrove books, this is mainly about the paintings – over 100 of them and pretty much equally divided between the two artists. There is, of course, no shortage of Alwyn’s work in print because of the number of books he has written, but not many of them are as generously sized as these are, or they are part of a step by step demonstration. Steve Hall’s approach is to categorise by artist and subject – Alwyn paints landscapes, June paints flowers, gardens and beaches, etc and, although it inevitably pigeonholes things a bit, this does bring some order to what could otherwise have become a bit of a ragbag and have done its subjects no justice at all.
There is also a short biographical introduction that contains most of the factual information you could want, especially if you haven’t managed to get hold of a copy of Alwyn’s painting autobiography, The Artist at Work. A pleasant surprise is the foreword by the editor of most of Alwyn’s art instruction books, which gives a very real sense of the warmth of both Alwyn and June and a clue to why it is they have been so enduringly popular in print, as demonstrators and on television.
Popularity often has the effect of trivialising – someone that ubiquitous somehow can’t really be a serious artist, can they? Look at this collection, however, and you’ll realise that the Crawshaws deserve another look.