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September 06, 2002

Prissy Art Classes Redux


I was looking at a book I picked up on vacation, "Realism in 20th Century Painting" by Brendan Prendeville. I discovered that what I termed "structured" drawing (i.e., mapping out your image by measuring everything visually using pencil or paintbrush) was a central theme of the art of various postwar British painters.

William Coldstream (1908-1987) insisted on painting from observation: "By systematically gauging vertical and horizontal distances on the person or object, seen against a brush held at arm's length, and marking his canvas accordingly, Coldstream sought to let his subject emerge as if by itself, without having been merely willed. Equally, he was intent on respecting the integrity of the painting's surface, its beauty."

Coldstream set up something called the Euston Road School with a couple of other artists, Claude Rogers and Victor Passmore. The book, which is regrettably short on illustrations, does reproduce two intriguing canvases: one of Victor Passmore's paintings, "The Studio of Ingres," and another by one of Coldstream's students, Euan Uglow, "Curled Nude on a Stool."



In both cases the reduction of three-dimensional data to a set of completely two-dimensional marks is very evident (the work almost becomes conceptual art), and yet its conceptualness (conceptualosity? conceptitude?) is in rather interesting tension to the fleshiness of the nudes. (Oddly, both renderings seem to focus on buttocks. Accident--or Hidden Meaning?)



posted by Friedrich at September 6, 2002


...Interesting snippet, Friedrich.
The Passmore for which I have such admiration is he of the haunting series of Gardens on the Thames at Hammersmith, where of course he lived, firstly at 2, Riverside, Chiswick Mall(1942-4) and then at 16 Hammersmith Terrace (1944-7). When he "went abstract" I was sorry. A painter myself, I had an interview with Coldstream back in the '50's. Where? The Slade I think. Nice man really, and his portraits I always thought had a certain whisper of magic floating through them... John Russell and Coldstream felt I might have gone far. Not to disappoint sujch luminaries I did just that, by settling in Western Canada, where the muse seems to have been worn down by years of copywriting, ice-filled bitter winters and harsh green summers, all brittle with conifers and terrible snow-streaked mountains..remote and desolate. Nothing seems like poetry anymore.Everything is for Real. Such a pity.

You have a lovely website, do keep it up...
God Save The Past!

Posted by: Brian Spiers on November 13, 2003 2:28 AM

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