Shorthand and substance
The eccentricity of the madcap Englishman and the straightforward sincerity of the sentimental American are at least Otio of the more durable (if somewhat tired) clichOs dragged out periodically to help a scriptwriter quickly and simply etch the distinguishing characteristics of the natives of those two countries. A glance, at the Anthony Green exhibition at the Rowan Gallery, Bruton Place, and, at the Andrew Wyeth show at the LeFevre Gallery, Bruton Street, could give, conceivably, greater substance to this kind of sociological shorthand.
Let us begin with Anthony Green — a man who has the distinction of being the first Academy 'summer show' poster artist to be fig-leafed. His effort last year, advertising the RA's perennial, turned into a PR man's dream when the bare-breasted lady (who happened to be his wife) aroused the misgivings of London Transport, who insisted that the lady had to be more suitably attired before underground travellers could be trusted to view her without danger of being driven to assault. Green's current show is an amplification of his poster art, and as such is an hilarious and witty affair in which the artist shares star billing with his mum as subject.
Green obviously has a doting family — a sympathetic wife whom we've already met, and now an understanding mother, willing to indulge her son and let the world see her with her hair down (actually, she's putting it up in one of the pictures) and revealing her dreams. Son Anthony doesn't exactly treat her with the reverence of, say, a Whistler, but it's all good clean Freudian fun (I think) and what the world needs more of is human and practical mums like Mrs Green. In painting himself, there is a zany touch of the Marx Brothers, combined with Chagallesqde surrealism and a dash of abrasiveness thrown in as the kicker. The distorted perspective and perceptively studied detail are at least two devastatingly original assets in the work of this sophisticatedly original artist. Not the least surprising thing about the exhibition is its location; one (that is, I) had long since despaired of ever seeing anything at the Rowan that didn't seem inordinately space-consuming while preciously pushing a tedious thesis — here at last is a joke the viewer can share, with or without programme notes.
No notes needed for Andrew Wyeth's work, either. We closet .admirers of 'Christina's World' can come out into the open now without fear of derision. How long have I thrilled to the sight of that lady, isolated, alone in the field, daring to reveal my predilection only to a select few, and even then only after a drink or two. No, the dear girl is not with us this trip,, but twenty-two other pictures are, ancisleeping dogs lie, an old Negro sits, and the stillness and beauty of Wyeth country is masterfully captured in watercolour, dry brush, pencil and tempera.
In this age of send-up, when the last thing in the world you would be caught advocating is 'simple virtue,' Wyeth has a refreshing, liberating effect. He is a humourless artist, without being tiresome, he does not use charm as a substitute for accomplishment. The two areas — Pennsylvania and Maine — in which he scavenges for subject matter are painstakingly presented, with the particular square inch on which he focuses cunningly selected. It is the kind of painting that inspires respect for the craftsman and gratitude for the tasteful, restrained flutter of sentiment he offers us to recognise and share.