7 NOVEMBER 1952, Page 13


A Miscellany of Painters.

THE art-critic is constantly tempted, for the sake of readability, to force the exhibitions he is reviewing into some sort of relationship that is in fact tenuous or non-existent. The London galleries are offering just now a profusion of exhibitions so variously interesting that the temptation, contrariwise, is merely to list them and leave the reader to indulge his particular taste. Masters, old and recent, may be found at Agnew's, where John Bowes' and his French wife's remarkable collection from Barnard Castle is represented; and at the Lefevre Gallery, where an early Renoir heads the French paintings. Notable from the Bowes Museum are the fifteenth-century triptych by the " Master of the Virgo inter. Virgines " and the El Greco St. Peter.

Two painters of the same generation„who are not often seen in England, make an interesting contrast in the bearing of national characteristics upon not dissimilarly generalised forms. At the Belgian Institute, Edgard Tytgat (1879), one of the gentler and more whimsical of the Flemish expressionists, shows the flat, plebeian simplifications of that school. At the Hazlitt Gallery, J. D. Fergusson (1874), last survivor of a famous quartet of colourists and doyen of Franco-Scottish post-impressionism, holds his first London exhibition for sixteen years. This retrospective show looks back over half a century, and traces Fergusson's development from early Whistlerian and Sargentesque portraiture, through a phase of relative violence that links him with the concurrent Brilcke movement in Germany and the fauves in France, to the high-toned, rhythmic compositions of recent years. Less whole-heartedly generous than his compatriot Peploe, Fergusson has perhaps been more discreetly ambitious, and his joy in paint as paint and colour as colour marks him out no less as a Scot.

The Leicester Galleries, not perhaps without a quiet chuckle, have thrown together the sharp reportage of Keene, the exuberant ice-cream sundaes of John Piper's most recent canvases and collages, and the almost trance-like quietude of Elinor Bellingham-Smith. Piper shows some sketches for lively figure compositions, but for the most part finds the peg upon which to hang his rich and theatrical semi-abstract designs in the fonts, tombs and altars of English church architecture. His preoccupations with texture are no less than they were ; his palette has become even brighter and more intense. The results are all brilliance and verve, but the technical considerations seem to have become ends in themselves. Miss Bellingham-Smith's wistful, gentle paintings, on the other hand, delicately touched in with sad grey-greens, tug at the heart like memories of childhood. Her little girls have a lyrical elegance, as though Susanne Eisendieck had been crossed with Kate Greenaway. Her unpeopled landscapes evoke the enjoyable melancholy of the return from the Sunday after- noon walk with the dog, when there was rain in the sky and the wind lifted the birds from the meadow like the last leaves from the trees, and one thought of the fire in the nursery and crumpets for tea.

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Elsewhere it is the young•names and the new names that provide the interest. The Beaux Arts Gallery shows three young sculptors ; the Institute of Contemporary Arts eight young painters. At the former, John Harvey has abandoned a previous suavity in the search for a more personal style, but has yet, one imagines, to find himself. Elizabeth Frink, at twenty-two, on the contrary, has all the clear-cut assurance of youth. Her slashed plaster, with its echoes of Germaine Richier and suggesting splintered bird-bone, though idiosyncratic is powerful. At the I.C.A., the idiom ranges from the Americanised realism of Alfred Daniels, via Alan Reynolds' fashionably spiky landscapes, to Harold Cohen's non-figurative skein of yellow (quaintly called The Power of Healing) via Edward Middleditch's strong warm greys and well-defined forms, and Barbara Braithwaite's evocative Sunday in August to Victor Willing's Baconian fantasies. All these are thirty or under.


Finally, it is a pleasure to welcome the London Group which continues to boast a membership-list that makes all the other exhibit- ing societies look snobbishly narrow. As always, in its annual exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, it is fresh, smart, various. Herman, Hitchens, Minton, Richards, Robb, Rosoman, Smith, Weight, Wynter are among the better-known names here ; K. Allen, J. Burr, M. Fedden, D. H. Fraser, A. Fry, A. Irvin, R. Platt, D. Rencher and G. Tuckwell among the lesser. It is invidious to itemise, but I liked Ralph Shaberman's pretty plaster and wire relief, among sculptures that sometimes seemed to caricature themselves.