Archive for category Author: Patrick George

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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DVD Patrick George: a likeness

Patrick George is arguably the best artist you’ve never heard of. He’s been described as reclusive, although this implies someone reluctant to talk in public and this certainly isn’t the persona that comes across here and it is not borne out by his teaching career. In point of fact, George is really more of a teacher than he is an exhibiting artist, most of his life having been spent at the Slade School, latterly as Professor.

The film takes the form of an extended narrative of his life, working methods and musings about the creative process. It’s a considerable tribute to the producers that this comes across as seamless, even though what appears on screen confirms that it is in fact several sessions stitched together. The sound quality is the same across all of them, even when filmed out of doors. This may seem like a small thing, but it means that while the film is by no means a talking head, there are none of the jumps in audio quality that can mar a dissertation such as this.

The film itself is compelling viewing. George is an engaging speaker (as you’d expect from a teacher) and he has plenty to say. His appearance belies his 90 years and there is a twinkle to him that conveys enjoyment both of his subject and its presentation, in which he is aided by his wife and muse, Susan Engledow. Watching the DVD, I was reminded strongly of the Louis Malle film, My Dinner With Andre, for its candid content and engaging character. Frank Auerbach’s comment about his painting (“responsive and cohesive … engrossing and admirable”) could equally apply to the film.

Artistically, George is the master of tone, which he frequently uses to define areas of the painting. He also works with a limited palette and in thin layers, so that his oils have a watercolour-like transparency. Every brushstroke is applied carefully and thoughtfully and his images, while eminently recognisable, are much more than simple representation. As he puts it himself, “… most things, when you look at them, become interesting”.

Anyone involved in the creative process any way should regard this as compulsory (it’s certainly compulsive) viewing.

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