BLAKESTON, Oswell

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1907-1985

Oswell Blakeston was a painter, writer, film maker and critic. A man of extraordinary talents, Blakeston’s family was of Austrian origin and he was born Henry Hasslacher. At age 16 he ran away from a bourgeois upbringing to become a conjuror’s assistant, a cinema organist and then a clapper boy with David Lean at Gaumont film studios. He began writing film criticism and, with Francis Brugiere, in the early 1930s he pioneered abstract films in Britain. As well as his painting and art criticism, Blakeston was also a novelist, playwright and poet with a “quick eye for the bizarre and the outrageous” according to his long-term partner and fellow artist Max Chapman.

Blakeston had over 40 solo shows, including Drian and Grabowski Galleries and New Vision Centre, and some 100 mixed shows. These included Leicester, Madden and Mercury Galleries. In 1981 he shared a show at Middlesborough Art Gallery with Max Chapman and in 1986 there was a memorial show at Camden Arts Centre. Victoria & Albert Museum and the Ulster Museum in Belfast hold his work, as do national galleries in Finland, Poland and Portugal.

 

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COHEN, Alfred

Cohen - Grotesque

Alfred Cohen

1920-2001

Alfred Cohen was born in America and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. After war service in the USAF, in 1949 he was awarded a foreign travel scholarship that took him to Europe. He continued studying in Paris at L’Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, showing his work in France and Germany. In 1960 Cohen settled in England and had a long series of shows with Roland, Browse and Delbanco. He also had solo exhibitions in Paris, Montreal and Tokyo. His style in France was realist and intimiste, but in the 1960s he moved on to haunting and exuberant studies in a chunky, richly-coloured style in the commedia dell’arte manner. In later life he turned to sparkling, jewel-like landscapes and seascapes. Cohen’s work is in many public collections including Ben Uri Collection, Contemporary Art Society, Nuffield Foundation, Pembroke College in Oxford and in galleries in Rye and in Hull, as well as widely abroad. The Alfred Cohen Foundation continues to promote his work, which continues to be regularly exhibited.

 

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COLQUHOUN, Ithell

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ARTIST BIOGRAPHY:
Ithell Colquhoun
1906-1988

Colquhoun was a pioneer surrealist artist, occultist, writer and poet. She also experimented with different painting techniques, such as enamel and decalcomania, throughout her life. Born in Assam, India she studied at Slade School of Fine Art 1927-31, then privately in Paris and Athens. She showed extensively, including London Group, Contemporary Art Society, Tate Gallery and abroad and had solo shows at Fine Art Society, Mayor Gallery and elsewhere. She was expelled from the London surrealist group in 1940 for refusing to conform to its dictates. She continued as an independent painter in London and Paul, Cornwall, and with touring exhibitions abroad.

Newlyn Orion Gallery held a major retrospective in 1977. Colquhoun was represented in the last Tate Gallery exhibition on surrealism and in the Mayor Gallery, London’s 2009 exhibition on British Surrealism. In addition to the Tate Gallery, her work is held in public galleries at Hove, Bradford and Cheltenham amongst others and the National Trust manages her estate. A monograph on her life and work was published in 2007.

 

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DASKALOFF, Georgi

Georgi Daskaloff - Approache or Shades of Evening

Georgi Daskaloff

1923-2005

Georgi Daskaloff was born in Sofia, Bulgaria and attended the art school at Sofia University, graduating in 1949. He ‘defected’ to the West in 1960, living in Paris before moving on to New York. Daskaloff painted in the 1960s and 1970s in a pop-art influenced abstracted figurative style using bright colours. He showed widely, having solo exhibitions in Copenhagen, Brussels, New York and Geneva as well as at Galerie Jacques Massol in Paris in 1968 and London’s Ewan Philips Gallery in 1969. Later in his career he specialised more in lithography. Daskaloff’s work is held in a number of public collections including British Museum, Joslyn Memorial Gallery in Omaha and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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DRECKI, Zbigniew

Zbigniew Drecki - Portrait of woman

Zbigniew Drecki

1922-1998

Zigniew Drecki was born in Warsaw and survived incarceration during the war in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, eventually escaping from a train transporting him to Dachau. He moved to Britain, settling with an English wife in Exmouth in Devon. Largely self-taught, Drecki for some time ran a painting school in Exmouth but in later years he concentrated solely on his own art. Painting in a house he and his wife owned in Florida, in addition to his Devon home, Drecki’s artwork was vibrant, colourful and at times wildly imaginative – a stark contrast to the art produced by other camp survivors such as Arnold Daghani. He appears to have been concentrating on the positive and also pursued political projects aimed at encouraging world peace and philanthropy.

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JADUNATH, Anthony

Anthony Jadunath - Birds

Anthony Jadunath

1945-2009

Anthony Jadunath was born in Trinidad in 1945, his grandfather having moved there from India. A highly recognised ‘Outsider Artist’ in later life, Jadunath arrived in England aged nine and, following a difficult childhood, endured stints in several institutions. At age 15 he was confined to a psychiatric hospital and it was here that he started to see art as a release. He worked on building sites and factories to earn money in adult life but constantly painted and sculpted in his spare time; art was to become a deeply spiritual experience, unleashing forces deep within him. Red was Jadunath’s favourite colour in art, powerful and symbolic of suffering.

In 1967 Jadunath took part in his first exhibition at Fairfield Halls, Croydon and in the 1970s he began to work teaching art to children at the Barbican Centre and the People’s Gallery. After taking an etching course at Croydon Art School his work gained greater recognition; Victor Musgrave of Gallery One purchased twenty of his works for the Outsider Archive Collection which he set up with Monika Kinley in 1981. This was originally under the aegis of the Tate Gallery but was disbanded in 1998; some remnants, including two of Jadunath’s works, in 2010 found a permanent home in the Outsider Art Collection at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. His work was also included in England & Co’s major exhibition ‘Outsiders & Co’ in 1996.
He had a show in London in 2007 and a major exhibition in Liverpool from August to October 2008 as part of its European Capital of Culture Programme. His final solo show in 2009 was at New Art Exchange, Nottingham titled ‘Jadunath: RED’.

 

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LANZI, Francois

Francois Lanzi - Into the Blue

Francois Lanzi

1916-1988
Francois Lanzi was born in Corsica and studied art in Paris under Guillot de Raffaillac. A prisoner of war from 1940-45, he came to live in the UK in 1954 and exhibited at a number of London Galleries including Redfern Gallery 1957, Royal Society of British Artists Gallery 1959 & 1960, Savage Gallery 1961 and Royal Academy 1965. Lanzi also had a number of exhibitions at the Artists International Association (AIA) in Soho, notably a solo exhibition in April-May 1967. In addition he showed in the provinces, including Stone Gallery at Newcastle in 1961. A promising career was stymied by Lanzi becoming a virtual recluse from the 1960s, although he continued to paint and produce collages throughout his life at his Chiddingfold, Surrey home. A major retrospective was held in 1994 at The Gallery in Woking. Lanzi’s work was in the ICI collection and is in a number of private collections in Britain, France and the United States.

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MELVILLE, John

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ARTIST BIOGRAPHY:
John Melville
1902-1986

 

John Melville was born in London but moved in childhood to Birmingham where he remained until his death. Largely self-taught, Melville towards the end of the 1920s became associated with the Modern Group in Birmingham but by the early-1930s he and his brother, the noted art critic Robert Melville, were also connected with the Surrealists in London. Melville exhibited from the early 1930s at St George’s Gallery, Wertheim Gallery, Royal Society of Birmingham Artists (RBSA) and elsewhere. The Melvilles, along with Conroy Maddox, refused to take part in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London accusing it of showing too many artists they did not consider to be Surrealists. Nevertheless, by the late 1930s and early 1940s John was regularly featured in international shows of Surrealist and Dada art and in 1938 his works were banned from an exhibition in Birmingham by local councillors as being “detrimental to public sensibility”.

Melville’s reputation suffered after the interruption of the war years and a solo exhibition at Hanover Gallery, London in 1951 was both a commercial and critical failure. Although he taught for a time at Birmingham University, Melville retreated into isolation artistically and developed along his own strange path. His son Theo has described his works as having a “frightening quality”, showing “infinite regression, a kind of annihilation” and there being “an apocalyptic element” in his later work. But despite a large retrospective at the R.B.S.A. Galleries in Birmingham in 1967 and a solo show of watercolours and drawings at the University of Birmingham in 1969, he remained a largely neglected painter until his reputation revived with the fiftieth anniversary of the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition. Mayor Gallery then included him in its major survey of British Surrealism, whilst Blond Fine Art had a solo retrospective show in 1986, Gothick Dream Fine Art a memorial exhibition in 1987 and the Westbourne Gallery another in 1996.

Even before this ‘revival’, Melville’s paintings had remained an important part of the Surrealist canon in Britain and had been shown in the Hayward Gallery’s 1978 exhibition ‘Dado and Surrealism Reviewed’ and Galleries 1900-2000 in Paris’s ‘Les Enfants d’Alice: La Peinture Surrealiste 1930-60 en Angleterre’ in 1982. Melville’s work is also held by the Ertegun and Filipacchi Surrealist collection (arguably the best Surrealist collection in the world) and was shown at the Guggenheim Museum in New York’s exhibition “Surrealism: Two Private Eyes” in 1999. His restoration to at least a certain level of prominence was confirmed when the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery held an exhibition in 2001 entitled “Surrealism in Birmingham” to celebrate Birmingham’s contribution to the avant-garde in the 20th Century, which concentrated on Melville, Conroy Maddox and Emmy Bridgewater. Later solo retrospectives include Millinery Gallery 2006.

 

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PAILTHORPE, Grace

Grace Pailthorpe - Surrealist composition

ARTIST BIOGRAPHY:
Grace Pailthorpe
1883-1971

Grace Pailthorpe was born in Sussex and served as a surgeon in World War 1. After that conflict she turned to psychology, setting up what eventually became the Portman Clinic. She met the Surrealist painter Reuben Mednikoff in 1935 and they embarked on a life study of psychological art research. Pailthorpe fell out with the main British Surrealist group in the late 1930s but continued to paint until her death. Leeds City Art Gallery in 1998 held a major retrospective of her and Mednikoff’s work entitled Sluice Gates of the Mind. Mayor Gallery and others also showed her work.

 

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STEELE, Elvic

Elvic Steele - The Tidal Pool

Elvic Steele

1920-1997

Elvic Steele was an Essex-based artist, inspired by Cedric Morris and with an interest in botany and surrealism which infused her work. Her paintings contain vibrant colours and have a naive, fantastic feel to them, far removed from the mundane. Steele was a teacher but aged 26 took a year off in 1946 to attend Cedric Morris’ East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing at Benton’s End. She found much inspiration in the gardens at Benton’s End and Morris rated her work highly. Steele began to show her work regularly at Colchester Art Society exhibitions and subsequent solo exhibitions included one in the Scilly Isles in 1960 and two at the Royal Spa Centre, Leamington in the 1980s. Peter Nahum of The Leicester Galleries, London later promoted her work and held a solo retrospective entitled The Magic Garden in 2005.

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