Archive for category Publisher: Sansom & Company

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham || Virginia Button

Every artistic group, movement and style has its footnotes. These can be peripheral figures who appear, sometimes literally, as additions in page-footings, contributors who only produced a few works, outsiders who were mainly influenced by the main practitioners or simply those who have been forgotten, obscured by the shade of the big beasts.

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham is one of the latter. The art world of the 1940s through to the 60s was overtly and often aggressively masculine and the grouping that still flourished in St Ives well-supplied with very big names indeed. Barns-Graham was always going to struggle for recognition, both historically and, indeed in her own lifetime, although some did come latterly.

That this is the first book devoted to her work probably tells you all you need to know. Dr Virginia Button examines her subject’s personal vocabulary of the abstract and makes an excellent case for her position as an influential figure in the development of mid-Twentieth Century art. Her work is centred on an emotional response to landscape, shape and form and the generous number of well-reproduced works easily convince the reader.

The author is based in Cornwall and has previously written about Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood as well as producing a wider study of the St Ives artists. She writes clearly and with the authority that comes from the most thorough understanding of her subject and material.

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South by Southwest || Jeremy Gardiner

Well, this is timely! This is an artist’s account of the South-West coast of Britain and comes just at the moment none of us can get there. Rather than just captioned images, however, each of the four main sections is curated (I don’t think that’s too strong a word) by a writer – Andrew Lambirth, Christiana Payne, Judith LeGrove and Steve Marshall. Their text covers more than just commentary and geographical information and includes history, interpretation and background material. The result is a highly cohesive whole, which makes this more than just an album or even a topographic account.

Gardiner’s work could probably be best described as interpretive realism. That’s to say, these are not simply records of views, nor yet flights of fancy. Rather, they capture the spirit of place and incorporate textures that reflect geological structure. Combined with the accompanying text, a quite remarkable sense of place is achieved.

The book was originally intended to accompany a touring exhibition at the St Barbe Gallery, Lymington, The Nine British Art and Falmouth Art Gallery. Quite what will happen to this is unclear, although maybe it will extend once we can all get out again.

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Refuge and Renewal: migration and British art || Peter Wakelin

Incomers provide a new perspective on their adoptive territory and also contribute to the development of its art through the integration of styles and techniques. This is not the same as internationalism, where artists from one country observe those in others and adopt and adapt their ways of working. Integration provides a fuller amount of exchange and symbiosis that works both ways. Something as simple as differing light can affect the way scenes are depicted, just as social mores and patterns of dress influence figurative work.

This book is based on a British perspective – to treat the subject from a completely international viewpoint would be enormous and far beyond the scope of this book and the exhibition, at the Royal West of England Academy, it accompanies.

For all that, it goes far enough back into history to look at the Sixteenth Century portraits of Hans Holbein and other artists who learnt their trade abroad. Peter Wakelin also considers the work of fleeing Huguenots such as Marcellus Laroon, whose Cryes of London has given identity to some of the forgotten masses – foreshadowing, in a way, Henry Mayhew’s Nineteenth Century narrative London Labour and the London Poor.

The main focus though, perhaps unsurprisingly, is on the Twentieth Century when wars and upheaval caused many, often large, population shifts. Helmut Herzfeld (who Anglicised his name to John Heartfield) portrayed those sought by the Gestapo in 1930s Germany, while Dobrivoje Beljkašic recorded his native Sarajevo in the 1990s.

Despite the potentially gloomy nature of the subject matter, this is an optimistic book, as reflected in the “renewal” of the title. The narrative is a complex one and Peter Wakelin is aware that he is dealing not with historical shifts but with individuals, each with their own stories and concerns. Ultimately, this is a book about art, not national and social history, and Wakelin marshals his material well, sparking interest at all points.

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Beyond the Brotherhood: the pre-Raphaelite legacy || Anne Anderson

Most people would, I think, assume that the Pre-Raphaelite movement was largely a backwater, fascinating undoubtedly, but complete in itself. A first reaction to the blurb’s mention of a reinvention in The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones would probably be scepticism; it certainly sounds like a point being stretched for the benefit of a book.

However, prepare to be convinced, because the illustrations alone demonstrate the truth of the thesis and, while some of the most recent works in the collection owe as much to the general run of Victorian and fantasy art in general, there is nevertheless a visible thread. Perhaps it would be better to see the PRB as proto-fantasists.

The book accompanies an exhibition at Southampton Art and Russell-Cotes Galleries running between October 2019 and June 2020. If you want to see a really rather good collection in the original, this is an excellent opportunity. As we have come to expect from Sansom, the quality of the reproduction is excellent and the image sizes generous – major works mostly appear as near full-page as possible. The price, for what you get, is also quite modest, possibly because some of the costs have been defrayed by the exhibition – however it’s achieved, it’s superb value.

Inevitably, this is something of a specialised subject. There are plenty of books about the Pre-Raphaelites and not everyone who wants those will also be interested in the legacy. However, the book, which includes a thorough interpretative text, makes a very convincing argument and includes a great deal of material that isn’t often seen together.

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Victoria Crowe || Susan Mansfield

Although she was born in Kingston-on-Thames, Victoria Crowe is now at the heart of Scottish painting, having taught for three decades at Edinburgh College of Art and exhibited widely in both private and public galleries.

This book accompanies an exhibition at Edinburgh City Art Centre, but is very much more than a catalogue or an adjunct that needs to be read in conjunction with a visit. The author, aided by contributions from Duncan Macmillan and Guy Peploe, gives a thorough account of Crowe’s life and work and the generous number of top-quality illustrations give a complete sense of her oeuvre. Encompassing a wide variety of subjects from portraiture to landscape and still life, Crowe’s work is inspired by her study of early Italian Renaissance painting and, as well as painting, she is also at home with drawing and printmaking.

This is a worthy summary of the work of a great contemporary artist.

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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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