The paint historian chooses an equine masterpiece from a century ago.
Patrick Baty on ‘Showing at Tattersalls’ by Robert Polhill Bevan
‘I first saw this picture at the Ashmolean in 1965. In that centenary year of Bevan’s birth, my father, his grandson, took me to many exhibitions of his works. It was probably the subject matter that appealed. That, and the solid blocks of colour. Works such as this may even have set me up in my career.
‘I appreciate his subtle use of colour. The bright blue coats framing the black hunter first draw one in, then one notices the complementary colour groups. The olive-green overcoat and red door/chestnut horse on one side and the covert and navy coats on the other. It is a masterful exercise in laid-back colour.’
Historic paint expert Patrick Baty is the owner of the shop Papers and Paints, London SW10
John McEwen on ‘Showing at Tattersalls’
Quakers have made prominent contributions to Modern British art, not least Robert Bevan. His family, descended from Robert Barclay, the Quaker Apologist, had a long association with Barclays Bank. The son of a banker, Bevan loved art and horses. His father tried to divert him from art, but, after Winchester and crammers failed to secure an Oxford place, he let him train as an artist in London and Paris.
Artistic wanderings took Bevan to Tangier, where he became master of the Tangier Hunt, and to Pont-Aven in Brittany, the artist colony where the Symbolist painting of Gauguin, whose colour denoted emotions, was influential. In 1961, Sir Philip Hendy, later National Gallery director, said he was perhaps ‘the first Englishman to use pure colour in the 20th century’.
Gauguin sought inspiration in the South Seas; Bevan on Exmoor, where he combined hunting with painting. In 1897, he fell in love with a Polish art student, Stanisława de Karłowska. He pursued her home to her family’s estate and they were soon married.
Socially, temperamentally and artistically he was an outsider — underlined by his founder membership of the non-Establishment Camden Town Group. A private income, a sense of destiny and his wife’s conviction sustained him.
Sickert, nucleus of the group, encouraged people to paint what they really liked. For Bevan, it was cart horses, cab horses or horse sales such as this one. As with his other sale pictures, Showing at Tattersalls is as much to do with the people as the horses and more naturalistic in colour than some of his works.
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