Patrick George || Andrew Lambirth

I described Patrick George elsewhere as the best artist you’ve never heard of. This is largely because he is better known as a teacher – he was at the Slade, ending up as Professor and Director – for forty years.

With his efforts directed elsewhere, Patrick is not a prolific painter, but what he lacks in quantity is more than made up for in quality and, above all, selectivity. Such works as there are have been painted because the artist has something to say about the subject rather than simply because it was there. Patrick’s views are interesting: his portraits generally address the viewer, though in a uncommenting and uncomplaining way. His landscapes are similarly what falls within his purview and give a sense of what is there, rather than what has been presented as being there. It’s a difficult concept to get across, but it helps to imagine looking out of (say) a window without turning your head or raising or lowering your eyes. What you see (and what we see) is what you get. It’s a thoroughly honest approach.

The result is an overwhelming sense of calm which, if you’ve met Patrick or seen the excellent DVD (see the link above) made about his work, he himself conveys. I asked him about this at the launch of this excellent and perceptive book and his reply was that he paints what he likes – meaning, I think, the things he likes rather than what he cares to paint. If he was your teacher, you feel that his criticism, while sharply perceptive, would always be constructive.

This is a thorough and comprehensive look at Patrick George’s work, life and working methods. It sets him in the context of the School of London group of painters, which includes Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach and Euan Uglow – all of them, interestingly, about as different from Patrick as could be imagined, yet all friends, colleagues or supporters. As a proportion of the artist’s work, the number of illustrations is a high one and represents both portraiture and landscapes as well as the serendipitous objects (including wallpaper) that Patrick chooses.

Whether you know, or want to know about Patrick George, it’s simply a joy to handle.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

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