Monday, 9 January 2012

Edward Burra

To be accurate, he didn't knock this morning. He rang the doorbell.

As I struggled into my dressing gown and rushed downstairs, I ignored the cries from Pat of "There is no bug! The doorbell didn't ring! Don't go outside with no clothes on!" I leave you to decide which of us was the more awake.

I admit I 'm prone to hearing phantom doorbells which have more or less replaced the catalogue of nightmares I've listed before, but this time I knew there was a book on it's way from Amazon and I was anxious to avoid having to go to the depot to collect it tomorrow.

The book in question was the volume published by Palant House in connection with their exhibition of Edward Burra's work. Although my interests in painting extend well beyond these shores, I have an abiding fascination for the work of British painters of the 20th century, and there was a distinct gap in my knowledge of Burra.

Never in good health, he chose to work mainly in watercolour on a large scale and the book captures the remarkably vivid colours he was able to achieve with his chosen medium by constantly overlaying with thicker and thicker paint. I was familiar with the paintings of bars and Harlem low-life (see the cover above) and the Surrealist tendencies (he was a friend of Paul Nash and showed with the Englsih Surrealists in the 1930s) but the landscapes were a real revelation in their pared down simplicity.

Valley and River, Northumberland, 1972
(Pencil and watercolour on paper, 40 x 27 ins)

A lovely book. I'd love to have seen the exhibition.


Casey Klahn said...

When I scrolled down to see Valley and River, my jaw dropped open.

Now, I have to see this guy's work!

Ian said...

I've just watched the programme about him made by Andrew Graham-Dixon. If I'd seen it earlier I would definitely have made the effort to go to Pallant House.

I did however finally make it to see John Martin at Tate Britain and last week I was at Tate Modern to see the Gerhard Richter show.

harry bell said...

Casey - the landscapes seem to have provoked a considerable amount of interest at the exhibition because they were virtually unknown.

Ian - sadly we've both missed what seems to have beena splendid exhibition. But I'm glad you got to the John Martin. Wonderful show!

Anonymous said...

Hi Harry and Ian. You haven't missed the show - you still have until the 19th February:

Do come and see it, we would love to welcome you! Emma Robertson, Press Manager, Pallant House Gallery

harry bell said...

Thanks for that, Emma. However tempting it may be, I'm afraid Chichester is not an easy commute from Gateshead.

Ian said...

Just discovered that via the Pallant House Twitter feed and came here to say the same thing! I'm definitely going to try and get there.

crispinhj said...

We went to see this exhibition on Friday. Try and get to see it, I know it's a long way from Gateshead but this is worth the trek.

Beautiful as the book is it fails to capture accurately the colours he used and by not seeing the paintings full size you miss a great deal.

I have never spent so much time looking so closely at a group of paintings before, our eyes were stinging when we left.

This might be the best exhibition I've ever seen

Do try to go


harry bell said...

Crispin, if I could, I would, but neither time nor money will permit.