Archive for category Publisher: Sansom & Company

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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Capture the Castle – British artists and the castle from Turner to Le Brun

“Everyone”, it says here, “loves a castle”. That’s a broad, bold statement, but I for one wouldn’t disagree. Not my place, not my pay grade, I’m just here to write about books.

As with a lot of Sansom books, this accompanies an exhibition. I like that because I get to see a lot of paintings I otherwise wouldn’t – I can’t get to everything. It also provides a lasting record after the show has finished and, while the works are all collected together, there’s an opportunity to do some quality origination, as well as a captive market for the initial print run, making the whole thing an economic possibility. It’s a neat, virtuous circle.

Subject-based exhibitions provide an opportunity for a varied and eclectic choice of works: you’re not limited by artist, style or period. Here, we have watercolours, oils, etchings, drypoint, casein, linocuts and anything else I’ve missed. The castles don’t even have to be real – there’s one of Gormenghast. The choice of works is right up to date, the most recent being 2016 (more recent than Le Brun, by the way).

As if all that wasn’t enough, there’s even a potted history of the development of castles as well. If you’re interested (and, as the blurb hints, aren’t we all?), but not so interested to want a whole book on the minutiae of the subject, this will do nicely.

The arrangement of the book is topical, with each chapter introduced by a different writer: a historian, art historians and an archaeologist. Each illustration is reproduced at a good size and has an extended caption explaining both the subject and the image; some of these are by the artists themselves.

There is much to like about this book, from the subject matter to the curating and the standard of production and reproduction. It’s also very reasonably priced, another thing Sansom are rather good at.

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Zawn: Walking West Penwith/Cliff-edge painting by Paul Lewin || Paul Gough

Helpfully, the back cover blurb provides an explanation of the enigmatic title. “Zawn: a coastal inlet in a cliff face, with steep or rocky sides. Often the result of a roof-collapse in a littoral cave.”

This is useful to know, as it defines the content of this beautifully illustrated book, which exudes a sumptuous feel in spite of its relative slimness and soft cover.

The paintings themselves, some already existing, others produced especially for the book, are a superb evocation of coastal landscapes and of the weather that inevitably assaults a West-facing peninsula. I haven’t traced the chronology on a map, but there is a sense of a journey, as opposed to randomly-selected landmarks and that sits well with the idea of a coastal path.

The text is an account at once of the book, of Paul Lewin’s working methods and of the creative process as a whole. Whether you feel you need it, or whether these three things sit altogether comfortably together, is a matter of personal taste. Although what Paul Gough writes is firmly grounded in the work it accompanies, there is still a slight disconnect due to the tendency to expand and generalise. You might feel, though, that it adds to, rather than detracts from, the book’s appeal.

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Wynford Dewhurst – Manchester’s Monet || Roger Brown

If you’re unfamiliar with the work of Wynford Dewhurst, you might regard the “Monet” claim as bold, perhaps even preposterous. Even a quick glance at this magnificent book will dispel that impression, though. The similarities are remarkable, but it’s also apparent that Dewhurst has a vision of his own and is no mere copyist.

Having initially begun training as a lawyer, Dewhurst made his way to Paris at the age of 27, in 1891, to study art and was immediately attracted to Impressionism. His book, Impressionist Painting: its Genesis and Development, which was published in 1904, was dedicated to Claude Monet. It was the first major study of the movement to be published in English. His contentious thesis was that the English landscape tradition, and especially the work of Constable and Turner, was the at the root of French painting of the day.

It’s clear from the generous number and quality of the illustrations here that Dewhurst had a genuine and serious talent. There is no doubt that he was emulating the work of the man he regarded as the master, and who became his mentor, but his own stands well alongside that of other Impressionists and the English landscape painters he regarded as their precedent. You can judge for yourself, as their work also appears in the book.

Roger Brown, something of a specialist in this field, has resurrected the reputation of a man who, in the end, became something of a footnote in the history of art, despite having been an important figure in his time; albeit he produced little work after 1926 and died in 1941 in relative obscurity. The book accompanies an exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery that, on the basis of what appears here, mérite le détour.

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Fiona McIntyre – A Tree Within || Alan Wilkinson

As a member of the Arborealist group (about whom Sansom published a book earlier this year), you might think that “A Tree Within” was the obvious title for this book. It is, however, a complete survey of McIntyre’s work rather than the specific, and most recent, and the link is not immediately obvious. As far as I can tell, it is influenced by a current exhibition – this publisher’s books often accompany them – but it makes the subject seem specific rather than general, which is a shame.

Fiona McIntyre is the great-granddaughter of Malcolm Drummond, one of the founders of the Camden Town Group and his influence on her work is clear – and readily seen thanks to several illustrations. It is a connection she is keen to acknowledge and she mentions a developing friendship with Tim Craven, curator of Southampton City Art Gallery, which has a considerable collection of Drummond’s work. Craven contributes a celebratory foreword.

Further textual material comes in the form of a extended interview with the book’s editor, Alan Wilkinson. In this, McIntyre talks candidly about her development as an artist, her influences and working methods. It is refreshing to find so many perceptive questions and such complete answers. Some artists seem almost embarrassed to talk about their work, but that is not the case here.

The illustrative sections of the book are chronological and grouped by place, with McIntyre’s current work, Arboreal, coming at the end.

This is an excellent opportunity to study the progression of the artistic mind and eye and could be generalised beyond its specific subject. To have had such complete co-operation, though, is a decided bonus.

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