Archive for category Publisher: Sansom & Company

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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The Drawings of Roger Hilton || Adrian Lewis

Not so long ago, I reviewed a retrospective account of Roger Hilton’s wife, Rose. The significance of this is that her life informs our opinion of her husband’s work. He was twenty years her senior and a dominant, perhaps domineering, figure who seems to have wanted more of a personal assistant, perhaps even a reflector of his own greatness, and forbade his talented bride from pursuing her own career. Knowing this, it is hard not to view Roger’s drawings of the human form – which form the bulk of what is included here – as belittling and maybe even abusive. There is no sense of beauty or respect.

What there is, however, is a strong sense of line and of form. Get past the initially dismissive quality of the drawings and there is a clear indication that their maker understands the techniques and processes of drawing as well as the use of space on paper. Hilton’s biographies tend to gloss over his teaching career, but he was at Central St Martins in the late 1950s and it becomes easy to imagine him as a charismatic instructor – which, indeed, could be how he acquired a bride twenty years younger than himself.

This is not, however, a book about psychology, interesting though that is, but about the life and work, particularly the drawings, of an important member of the St Ives School whose reputation was international. Influenced by Matisse, Picasso and Klee, Hilton was a master of the balance between abstraction and figurative drawing. Adrian Lewis also looks at how Hilton’s personal life and sexual desire became integrated in his visual expression (something hinted at above). The book is comprehensive and analytical and does much to enhance the reputation of Hilton as a draughtsman. It is perhaps a shame that some of the illustrations appear to have been reproduced from less than perfect transparencies, but sometimes you have to go with what’s available and the results are by no means unacceptable, and better included than not.

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Stanhope Forbes – Father of the Newlyn School || Elizabeth Knowles

Victorian painting included a style that one might describe as “sanitised reality”. That is to say, scenes from the life of working people who, when you look at them more closely, live in houses that are in slightly too good repair and wear clothes that are suspiciously clean and unworn. It was a romanticisation of labour that led, amongst other things, to the Arts and Crafts Movement and the impossible futurology of William Morris’s novel News From Nowhere.

Stanhope Forbes is best known for his plein air foreshore paintings of Cornish fisherfolk, and there are plenty of these here. However, there is also a good selection of the artist’s other work that shows him capable of tackling a wide variety of subjects, from rural landscapes to portraiture and industry. In these, he seems more comfortable with the true reality of his subjects – the portraits in particular are sensitive and insightful. Only once does harsh reality creep in, in the very last painting in the book: Their Ever Changing Home, where a traveller family are on the move, the mother’s expression suggesting that this is not, perhaps, entirely voluntary.

Stanhope Forbes was an important figure in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and this book, published to accompany an exhibition at Penlee House Gallery and Museum, includes 50 well-reproduced illustrations that cover all periods of the artist’s life and aspects of his work.

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Roger Cecil – a secret artist || Peter Wakelin

If you haven’t heard of Roger Cecil, you couldn’t be accused of ignorance. Even if you had, you might never have seen any of his work. He was a legendary figure among curators and you can almost imagine travellers’ tales of the fabulous works that remained inaccessible to most.

Cecil was a recluse. Those who knew him regarded him as one of the greatest abstract artists of his generation, but he was intensely private and exhibited only rarely. When he died in 2015, his body was only found after a police search.

This collection should cement Cecil’s posthumous reputation. Peter Wakelin has amassed a remarkable number of works and facts and presents an account of the man and his life in South Wales that has been painstakingly researched. It becomes immediately apparent that Cecil was indeed a major figure (or would have been if he had been more widely known) and possessor of a very remarkable talent. His understanding of form and colour, and especially of the figure, is truly remarkable and, now that he is gone and his privacy cannot be intruded on, the time has come to shine a light on his output.

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