Archive for category Publisher: Sansom & Company

Bath || Peter Brown

Peter Brown first moved to Bath in 1986 when he became an art student and he credits the city with re-igniting his passion for painting when he returned in 1993.

This large-format, sumptuously illustrated volume is nothing less than a love letter to his adopted home. Pete’s Bath is not the tourist attraction, although the casual visitor will find plenty of scenes they recognise. Rather, he seeks – as is his normal method of working –quieter corners, commercial thoroughfares and forgotten backstreets. These are the places the tourist never sees and which locals, through daily familiarity, often overlook. In every kind of weather and lighting conditions, they take on a new life and vibrancy that can only really be discovered by the true aficionado and intimate.

This is a substantial book that should appeal to any lover of Bath itself, of urban landscapes, or just of painting. It’s a tour de force that comes not just of love, but of observation and persistence.

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Albert Irvin and Abstract Expressionism

This slim volume, which accompanies an exhibition at the RWA Bristol, manages to provide a comprehensive history of the Abstract Impressionist movement in Britain. This began with the 1959 Tate Exhibition, The New American Painting, which introduced the style to what I think one might call a surprised audience.

For young artists, the freshness of new ideas was intoxicating and the exhibition (and this book) includes works not just by Irvin, but many of his contemporaries, including Peter Lanyon, John Bratby and Gillian Ayres, who picked up the Transatlantic baton and ran with it.

As well as the superbly reproduced paintings, analytical studies look at the history of the movement and some of Irvin’s creative practices. There’s a great deal to get stuck into in the 88 pages that are here and the book covers more ground than many twice its extent.
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Students of Hospitalfield || Peggy Beardmore

Hospitalfield, in Arbroath, was essentially a finishing school for artists. Formerly an imposing private residence, it was gradually transformed into an art college following a bequest by the owners, Patrick and Elizabeth Allan, at the end of the Nineteenth Century. As its reputation grew, it became the place where Scottish art schools sent their most promising pupils for the summer.

If this is unfamiliar ground and the college’s story previously untold, the lacuna is more than adequately filled here. This comprehensive study follows the history of the building as well as the art school and its influence on Scottish art in the Twentieth Century. Alongside the historical narrative are studies of many of the artists whose careers were touched by Hospitalfield and there are also plenty of generously-sized illustrations that add the all-important visual element that a book like this demands.

The blurb describes this as “an essential reference for scholars, artists and curators”, hinting at the perhaps rather academic approach. For all that, it is a tale worth reading as well as telling and is by no means inaccessible for the non-specialist.

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Edwin G Lucas – an individual eye || Helen E Scott

The art of Edwin Lucas (1911-1990) defies categorisation. Largely self-taught, he was prolific in his output and exhibited regularly at the Royal Scottish Academy and Society of Scottish artists; he was much more than a talented amateur.

Coinciding, as Sansom publications frequently do, with a retrospective exhibition, this book contains a generous and representative selection of Lucas’s work as well as useful biographical and critical material. The development of the artist’s style can be traced from relatively conventional beginnings to his encounter with Surrealism in the 1930s and his incorporation of this with his very individual, and often Expressionist, world view. “Idiosyncrasy” can often be a codeword for “difficult”, but Lucas’s paintings are more than that and invite, rather than demand, further scrutiny which they reward with humour and insight.

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Conflicting Views – pacifist artists || Gill Clarke

As we approach the anniversary of the end of the First World War, this is a timely publication. Fittingly, it is also not a sequence of proselytising anti-war images, but rather works by artists who were not recording heroic battles or glorious victories. Yes, Mark Gerlter’s Merry-Go-Round (1916) is here, as are George Micklewhite’s cartoon-like drawings of life as a conscientious objector, but there are also images from the home front and of life behind the lines.

There are two main sections, First World War and Second World War, each being treated separately. With a few exceptions, the artists featured in the second part were too young to feature in the first and, apart from attitudes, there are few comparisons to be made that are not immediately obvious to the viewer. It is interesting to note that some of those who refused WW1 changed their views in the 1930s in the face of Nazism. A short final chapter, Coda: a legacy of war and peace, sums up the theme of the book, but conflicts that fall outside the two main wars are outside its scope – to be fair, extending the brief would have made for a very large tome indeed.

The selection of artists is broad, as is the type of work illustrated. It is something of a shame that not every artist gets an illustration, but that could be seen as adding to the book’s completeness, rather than detracting from its appeal.

This is a useful and thought-provoking addition to the literature about war and art and is nicely put together and presented.

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Silent Witnesses: Trees in British Art 1760-1870 || Christiana Payne

One of the first things you notice from a cursory glance at this is that the painting of trees has gained a lot more life in recent years. Maybe it’s the speed of travel and the reduction in afforestation, but a modern painting will show the tree as much more heroic than many historical examples. Today, we travel at 70 miles an hour on open roads, with trees as part of a distant view or flashing by. This is a far cry from the days when the fastest thing around was a galloping horse and many thoroughfares were little more than tracks, with trees often towering over them. Then, trees obscured the light, harboured footpads and wild animals, as well as impeding the way. They were things to fear rather than love.

It’s quickly apparent that, in the period covered by this really rather magnificent book, tree drawings and paintings fall broadly into three camps: the detailed, almost botanical study, gloomy clearings, or incidental growths whose precise species is not always apparent. Trees were so commonplace that an artist would assume that all their viewers knew what they were looking at without being told in any detail.

This doesn’t mean that trees were unremarked – as the illustrations here make amply clear – or unrevered. Writing in 1792, William Gilpin observed that a tree was “the grandest, and most beautiful of all the productions of the earth” and John Ruskin asserted that “if you can paint one leaf, you can paint the world”. And, of course, trees have been seats of learning, points of devotion, meeting places and waymarkers since the dawn of time.

This book accompanies the exhibition A Walk In The Woods at the Higgins Bedford and the launch of the Woodland Trust’s Charter For Trees which celebrates the 800th anniversary of the Forest Charter (effectively, the commoners’ Magna Carta). Christiana Payne includes history, folklore and art as well as looking at the role of trees in the country-house culture of the time and issues relating the felling of trees to provide timber for navy ships. It all makes for a fascinating and complete study.

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Also available from the publisher: http://sansomandcompany.co.uk/shopping/silent-witnesses/

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Albert Reuss in Mousehole || Susan Soyinka

The experience of Albert Reuss was not dissimilar to that of many European Jews in the 1930s. Fleeing Austria in 1938, he lost many members of his family and his possessions, as well as the reputation he built up in his native Vienna. This book is the story of how he re-established himself in a new country. If the name is not familiar, the tale is gripping as well as moving and stands as representative of what happened to so many in the middle of the last century.

After his arrival, Reuss continued to work and held exhibitions throughout England, moving to Cornwall in 1948. The choice of Mousehole is a slightly surprising one and the full story is recounted here. The actual arrival is not unlike that of other artists who moved to the area – they seem to have arrived with their suitcases almost out of the blue.

Reuss’s career bloomed and he established the ARRA gallery locally as well as holding one-man shows at the O’Hana Gallery in London. His work is now held at the Newlyn Art Gallery as well as the British Museum, the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. It is perhaps telling, however, that a quotation that accompanies the press release for the book refers to “the painter whose work fills [the Newlyn Art Gallery’s] store” – not all this work is on permanent exhibition.

This is not a heavily illustrated book and, as an introduction to the artist, is more of interest for the story it has to tell. However, those illustrations (a colour section includes 52 works) that are included show a considerable talent as well as reflecting the emotional harshness and sense of loss at the heart of their creator’s life.

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