Thursday, August 16, 2007

The End of an Era

Two events this summer have made me aware of the passing of a generation of artists who were an inspiration. The first was the NEAC exhibition in Hereford which commemorated the life and work of John Ward. He had many admirers in the circle I befriended when I began to paint seriously. I went to see the exhibition again this week partly to admire John Ward’s pen and wash drawings of Rome and also to enjoy the diversity of the work by a group of painters who are working in the figurative tradition.

The next event was prompted by a flier which dropped out of the September issue of ‘The Artist’ magazine. It announced the publication of a book celebrating the life and work of James Fletcher-Watson. His loose rather understated watercolours in the Wesson – Seago manner had many followers among the older Ludlow Art Soc members when I began exhibiting. J F-W was an architect and for me he was at his best when painting buildings. Although he still has many admirers and a lifetime of achievement that will make copies of the Hallsgrove monograph greatly prized he belongs to an era that is passing.

It was an article by Frank Whitford one of the judges of the Singer and Friedlander Watercolour competition in the same issue of ‘The Artist’ that confirmed this opinion. He was writing about his favourite entries amongst the shortlisted prizewinners. Contemporary watercolour now admits the use of any waterbased medium whether opaque or transparent. Though this development would have upset Wesson who would never countenance the use of Chinese White I don’t have a problem with incorporating gouache or acrylic in a watercolour painting.

I have to say though Frank Whitford’s favourites are not to my taste but then taste is a subjective matter anyway. I’ve always enjoyed the work of David Curtis and David Prentice – both past prizewinners – as among the best exponents of contemporary watercolour. I’m pleased that David Curtis is now on the S&F panel of judges and that David Prentice is a 2007 prizewinner.

Friday, August 03, 2007

At the New English

Happened to be in Hereford last week and was delighted to discover an exhibition by members of the New English Art club in the Museum and Art Gallery. It seemed to have been staged in memory of John Ward CBE, RA, NEAC who died earlier this year. He was born and educated in Hereford before going on to the RCA after service in the Royal Engineers in WW2. He left a set of drawings which he made on active service to the Hereford museum which were on display.

The NEAC was founded in1886 - one of founder members was Sickert he and others imported impressionist and realist ideas from France. Augustus John’s work aroused a concern for sensitive draughtsmanship and his influence is still traced in the work of current members.

The NEAC claims to represent the very best of contemporary British figurative painting. There are some fine medium sized oil paintings that look well in a large gallery space and are well worth studying. There’s also encouragement to be gained by seeing the smaller works painted with a directness of touch maybe as studies. There were two little oils of Padstow by Tom Coates – they left me with the feeling that with a little effort and practice I could pull off something almost as good! A touch of conceit? – perhaps but at least Tom's paintings inspired me to push myself a lttle further.

The exhibition runs till 29th August - do get to see it if you can.