Archive for category Author: Andrew Lambirth

The Art of Richard Eurich || Andrew Lambirth

Richard Eurich (1903-1992) lived through virtually the whole of the Twentieth Century and was touched by almost all of its schools and movements and influenced many of its more well-known practitioners.

That his work is hard to categorise is a function of that and he moves readily and smoothly between conventional landscapes to sometimes fantastic scenes with altered and observational perspectives and to figurative work where detailed study of faces, expressions and interactions reaps considerable rewards.

Analytical biographies of all of the century’s best known names have now appeared and we are, indeed, moving into the “important reappraisal” phase of those. To find original material and break new ground, writers are therefore progressing to more peripheral figures and, while it would be unfair to describe these as “minor”, they are certainly less well-known outside specialist circles. The reverse of that coin, of course, is that what deserve to be major figures are being rescued from at least relative obscurity, while blanks in the wider narrative are filled in.

So it is with Richard Eurich, as it says here, “a private man, not given much to self-promotion”. Eurich was many things (as were his contemporaries, of course) – an excellent draughtsman, teacher, painter of marine subjects and, inevitably for that generation, war artist.

Being the first full study, this was always going to be ground-breaking, but Andrew Lambirth’s typically thorough and sympathetic approach ensures a work that does its subject full justice and produces a nice balance between Eurich’s personal and professional lives.

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Brian Rice Paintings 1952 – 2016 || Andrew Lambirth

Published to coincide with the artist’s 80th birthday, this catalogue raisonné includes all of Rice’s work from a long career.

In the London art scene in the 1960s, Brian Rice was part of what amounts to a crowd of talent centred round the RCA and included such luminaries as David Hockney, Peter Blake, Allen Jones and Joe Tilson. He was interviewed by Michelangelo Antonioni as part of the background for Blow Up, the film that so evoked the era.

In the 1970s, Rice relocated to Dorset, becoming a sheep farmer and teaching part-time at Brighton College of Art. Discovering Bronze Age artefacts on the land he worked inspired him to take a new artistic direction and focus on landscape and habitation. The 1980s saw him renovate a run-down fifteen-century house and produce artworks centred around a strong sense of place.

Artists are often seen as existing in something of a vacuum, concentrating on nurturing their personal vision, whatever that happens to be. Brian Rice contradicts this and his work almost defiantly refuses to be categorised. Some of his earlier works use scraperboard and a style that seems almost to be looking backwards – maybe that sense of the past and of roots was always there. Later, he develops into styles that mirror their own times and certainly echo what is perhaps more familiar from what Hockney was doing at the time. Other work falls relatively neatly into Pop Art and there is also plenty of abstraction and the use of geometric shapes. Given the course of Rice’s life, it comes as something of a surprise that recent pieces do not have the reflective quality that sometimes pervades creative workers as they get older. In Rice’s case, change seems to have inspired renewed creativity and a desire to explore new avenues.

Inevitably in a book of this kind the illustrations are quite small – there are nearly a thousand of them to fit in. It is a tribute to the quality of the production, though, that this doesn’t leave the reader feeling short-changed. Just sometimes, both quantity and quality can be accommodated at the same time.

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William Gear || Andrew Lambirth

William Gear was one of only two British artists to be included in the CoBrA (Copenhagen/Brussels/Amsterdam) Group, Europe’s answer to American Abstract Expressionism, itself a short-lived but explosive movement. As a result, his reputation was largely international: Scottish by birth, he spent a lot of time in Paris in the late 1940’s, but returned to the UK in 1950.

His fame increased exponentially with Autumn Landscape, a controversial piece painted for 1951’s Festival of Britain and he became one of the leading innovators of that decade. Autumn Landscape is highly abstract and caused considerable shockwaves, this not being a familiar style at the time. It is, however, heavily influenced by the dapped light he saw in the hedgerows of Buckinghamshire where he had settled. Looked at now, it is more of a piece of classic abstractionism that nevertheless retains the quintessential Englishness of what had gone before and might even be regarded as “safe”.

Andrew Lambirth’s majestic study is both a biography and an account of Gear’s art and working methods. It is thoroughly illustrated and might even qualify partly as a catalogue raisonné, although you may find the indexing hard to navigate.

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Eileen Gray – the private painter || Peter Adam & Andrew Lambirth

A pioneer of both Art Deco and Modernism, the varied and original work of Eileen Gray encompasses much of the history of art movements in the twentieth century.

The subtitle is worth further examination as it refers to an exhibition of her paintings, as opposed to the work for which she is better known (of which more later). The foreword by Gordon Samuel is slightly confusing on this subject, as it refers to what seems to be a current presentation, but doesn’t say where it is and refers back to another at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2013. It’s as though this piece was lifted from a catalogue that would have been at the gallery – and therefore didn’t need to specify the location. Seen out of context, though, it’s not apparent what is being referred to.

To some extent, this doesn’t matter, but it gets things off to a less than auspicious start and also leaves the reader wanting to know more – where can I see this, from the sound of it, rather comprehensive collection? It’s also a shame because the rest of the book comprises a well-made selection of Gray’s work that reflects her various styles and subjects. Primarily a designer and architect, she also produced a small amount of furniture. Privately, she also painted and took photographs and all this is reflected here. As the title and the preliminary material suggest, the main focus is on the paintings, but there is enough other material to put the main topic in context and explain its subject to a newcomer to her work.

Eileen Gray was an innovator in line, colour and texture and was the first designer to work with chrome, preceding its more famous exponents such as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. Traces of Cubism, Surrealism and de Stijl can be found in her work. Again, all this is a necessary background to understanding her painting, which is mostly in gouache and frequently combined with pencil and crayon and broadly abstract in form.

Something of a forgotten figure, Eileen Gray deserves to be better known, especially in the world of design and its history, and this book does much to redress that. It is, perhaps, a little confused as it manages to be at once dedicated to a specific (and, by its nature, less well known) aspect of her work as well as a slightly more general survey of it. Whether there is a sufficient market for the more substantial tome that suggests is a moot point, so perhaps it’s best to say that this is an excellent starting point. I do wish I knew where the exhibition was, though.

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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.

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