Discovering Paintings : Robert Bevan ‘Showing at Tattersalls’ c1919.

Robert Bevan: Showing at Tattersalls : c1919
Oil on canvas, 58 x 71 cm
Ashmolean Museum

I first came across works by Robert Bevan when I was a Fine Art student at the University of Newcastle when an exhibition was staged of Bevan’s paintings and drawings in the University Gallery.  What struck me forcibly then was the strength of line and form and the powerful use of what often appears a limited colour palette. This came as a great surprise for up until then I had felt that the work of early twentieth century British figurative artists, in so far as I knew anything about it, was almost totally weak and rather ‘fluffy’. The exhibition met with little enthusiasm by us students – both the firmly bold non-figurative practitioners like myself and those refined and subtle followers of the Euston Road School. I rather felt that I should not like or appreciate Bevan’s work!

This general lack of appreciation decades ago may explain or reflect why Robert Bevan and his work did not figure in most art historical surveys, including art gallery collections and exhibitions, subsequently.  But my original positive reaction was re-kindled in recent years when I discovered this work in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. After years of neglect the British School of the earlier twentieth century has, in recent years, attracted more positive criticism – being seen now as a British dimension to the Modern Art scene.

My now more mature reflection and appreciation recognises again the power of Bevan’s work. The fundamentalism of pure abstraction can blind one to the basic abstract forces of figurative composition, colour, and technique which I now see more clearly in this work at the Ashmolean. It’s size is relatively small compared with much modern work – but its impact far exceeds its size. The title leads us to the setting of the scene – a horse sale – but, as with many titles, once noted it should be left behind as one explores the painting itself – let it speak to you in all its concentrated power. Note the rich, matt, paint, and the precise brushwork – all contained and highly organised within the overall composition.




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One Comment

  1. Robert Lobley
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    It was good to see you on Saturday. I am impressed by your selection of paintings on the web site. I was taught by Freddie Gore at St Martins. I think he was quite young when his father Spencer died. He was an interesting man. I notice you show The Girls at Waberswick by Wilson Steer. I put that on the cover of my little how to book, Your Book of Painting.
    Robert Lobley

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