18 FEBRUARY 1949, Page 15


MR. WALTER HUTCHINSON'S National Gallery of British Sports and Pastimes was opened last week in the admirable eighteenth-century setting of Derby House (as was), in Stratford Place, off Oxford Street. In the midst of so many gift horses of interest and value, it would be unbecoming to look any of them in the mouth. Let it suffice that, among the 550-odd pictures and prints on view, every imaginable game and sport, from bowls to birds-nesting, seems.to be represented in addition to the horses. For those whose interests are not primarily sporting, the main attractions will probably be Constable's Stratford Mill and the Stubbes. For every additional opportunity to study Stubbs's incomparable gifts we must be grateful.

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From other exhibitions let me choose three. John Minton, at the Lefevre Gallery, seems to be loosening his touch after a series of almost academic portraits built on lines laid down by Gris. His sonorous colour is more gay, and the rather cerebral formalisations of a couple of years ago have been succeeded by a half-improvisatory directness, which gives to his recent pictures a bolder and altogether more sturdy air. In manner and colour he is now nearer Paris than hitherto. One wall of the gallery is filled by a large decorative composition of a harbour scene, and though this is not free from those conceits of texture and surface patterning upon which he has sometimes relied overmuch in the past, one cannot but applaud the courage which has attempted a statement on this scale. The evident facility with which Minton produces his results tends to make them a little suspect, and the restlessness with which he is still casting about for fresh novelties of manner suggests a certain instability. Nevertheless, his determination to effect a balance between subject- matter and pictorial construction, between heart and head, opens up wide possibilities. If steadiness of purpose is allied to the growing assurance shown by this exhibition, Minton's place in his own genera- tion will be certain.

Michael Rothenstein, at the Redfern, is, by comparison, the minia- turist on the midden. We might, perhaps, have a gentleman's agree- ment among our contemporary painters and sculptors for a year or two (the most famous are among the worst offenders) to refrain from exhibiting pages from sketchbooks and scraps retrieved from the wastepaper basket. This is an ungracious comment on Rothenstein's show, however, for he has developed markedly since his last. He has„ widened his palette considerably, and seems to have achieved that real integration of the constituent elements of the picture which was lacking before. Perhaps he will not essay some fully considered work on a larger scale ? Humphrey Spender, at the same gallery, is showing accomplished and pleasant oils yin his inimitable compound of pretty colour and decorative texture.

At the Leicester Galleries are recent watercolours by Edward Bawden—a little more relaxed than usual and less dependent on technical mannerisms. From the soft moth-greys and greens and pinks he uses with such effortless certainty Bawden distils unspoken mysteries and slightly uncanny undertones so subtle that one is not sure whether one is imagining them or not. He is surely in the great English water-colour tradition, and now at the height of his powers? Also to be seen here are oils by Merlyn Evans, conceived in the shadow of Wyndham Lewis.