Posts Tagged ‘Chichester’

Design | Sheila Bownas: Queen of Post-War Pattern

Friday, February 9th, 2018

SB 159, c 1950 > 59
Private Collection /
Rachel Elsworth



Sheila Bownas: A Life in Pattern
Pallant House Gallery
Chichester | UK
21 February > 20 May 2018



SB 1471, c 1970 > 79



A few years ago a huge cache of work produced by Edwardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson for Hammer Prints, the company they formed in 1954 to produce groundbreaking textiles and ceramics, was found rolled up at the back of a neglected garage. At around the same time, in 2008, gallery professional, Chelsea Cefai, having completed the renovations to her home and in search of something to hang on its walls, turned to eBay, where she stumbled across and bought an extensive collection of original textile designs, produced over a period of thirty years, beginning in the 1950s, by someone called Sheila Bownas.

Unlike Henderson and, particularly, Paolozzi, Bownas (1925 > 2007) had never achieved fame or recognition during her lifetime. The Hammer Prints material would soon form the basis of a major exhibition at Colchester’s First Site gallery in 2012. It would take eight years and a great deal of painstaking research and effort by Cefai, who founded the Sheila Bownas Archive and invited artists and designers across the UK to collaborate on a unique range of products to bring Bownas’ patterns back to life, before Sheila Bownas: A Life in Pattern was shown for the first time at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum in 2016. From later this month, the prestigious Pallant House Gallery will present the material from this exhibition to a wider audience.

SB 301, c 1960 > 69



Untitled 1, c 1950 > 59
Private Collection /
Jill Wharton



SB 1466, c 1970 > 79



Realising the importance of the 200 hand-painted designs she had discovered, Cefai first made contact with the Bownas family and pieced together a detailed history of the artist’s life and work. Having grown up in the isolated Yorkshire Dales village of Linton-in-Craven, Sheila Bownas had attended Skipton Art College in the 1940s then won a scholarship to attend The Slade in London. Graduating in 1950, she forged a career as a freelance designer. Oscillating between London and Linton over the following twelve years, she finally settled in the Yorkshire Dales from where she despatched her designs by post.

Untitled 3, c 1950 > 59



Hammer Prints, set up as an edgy antidote to the revival of interest in quaint early 20th-century craft movements, was an innovative and bold statement but lasted only a few years and never achieved commercial success. Bownas, on the other hand, who capitalised on the optimism that swept the country after the 1951 Festival of Britain, and who had no qualms in adopting stylistic variety, supplied consumer-friendly patterns to leading brands such as Liberty, Marks & Spencer and Crown Wallpapers for more than two decades. It was common, however, for pattern designers to go uncredited during this period – Lucienne Day was a rare exception – and, despite the consistently high quality of her prolific output, until after her death in 2007, Bownas remained an obscure figure. Sheila Bownas: A Life in Pattern at Pallant House Gallery will confirm her status as a leading name in mid-century British textile design.

All artworks by Sheila Bownas, courtesy Pallant House Gallery, © Sheila Bownas Archive


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Art | John Minton: Demon Painter

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Portrait of John Minton,
Soho, 1952, John Deakin

Gelatin silver print,
Image courtesy
Michael Hoppen Gallery,
© The Condé Nast
Publications Limited



John Minton:
A Centenary
Pallant House Gallery
Chichester | UK
1 July > 1 October 2017



‘Being fatally drawn to the human race, what I want to do when I photograph it is to make a revelation about it. So my sitters,’ – who included, among many others, the painters Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon, and John Minton – all members of the Soho-based neo-romanticist circle of artists – ‘turn into my victims. But I would like to add that it is only those with a demon, whose faces lend themselves to be victimised at all.’ John Deakin (1912 > 1972), photographer

Sadly, within a few years of his sitting with Deakin, Minton (1917 > 1957), overwhelmed by his demons, would take his own life. In the 1940s and early 50s, he had been regarded as one of the most talented of his generation, particularly for his figurative drawing skills.

Portrait of Kevin Maybury, 1956
Oil on canvas,
© Tate, London 2017 /
Royal College of Art



Children by the Sea, 1945
Oil on canvas,
Tate, London,
© Tate, London 2015 /
Royal College of Art



From 1948 up until his death, Minton taught at London’s Royal College of Art. Charismatic – he attracted a crowd of student followers, who became known as ‘Johnny’s Circus’ – he nevertheless possessed a self destructive character and despite personal advances, such as the new colour palette he developed after travels to Corsica, Jamaica, and Spain, was constantly plagued by self-doubt. While his early work was clearly influenced by European modernist ideas, when the abstract expressionist trend that arrived from New York in the 1950s swept through the London art scene and his fellow neo-romanticists, Freud and Bacon, found ways of moving on that increased the relevance of their work, Minton, feeling threatened and sidelined, his commitment to figurative art seemingly outmoded, fell into deep depression. Composition: The Death of James Dean (1957), was his last ambitious picture, and it’s possible that he identified with the ill-fated Hollywood film star, killed in a car accident, aged twenty-four, in 1955.

Bridge from Cannon
Street Station
, 1946

Oil on canvas,
Pembroke College
Oxford JCR Art Collection,
© Royal College of Art



Neville Wallis, 1952
Brighton and Hove Museum,
Royal Pavilion & Museums,
Brighton & Hove
© Royal College of Art



Significantly, 2017 is not only the centenary of the artist’s birth and the 60th anniversary of Minton’s tragic death, but this year also marks 50 years since the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales. Minton was homosexual as was his close associate, the artist Keith Vaughan (1912 > 1977). While Minton tormented himself over his sexuality, Vaughan filled his journals with philosophical musings around the problems facing a gay, figurative painter in the 1950s, whose primary subject was the male nude. Vaughan’s works becoming increasingly abstract: Minton stuck doggedly to producing uncompromising, figurative portraits of young male students and friends.

John Minton: A Centenary, at Pallant House Gallery, will present a substantial number of paintings, many of them drawn from the collection of the Royal College of Art, and also includes book illustrations – among them, those for Elizabeth David’s A Book of Mediterranean Food (1950) – posters and lithographs that demonstrate his status as a leading post-war illustrator. As contextual aids, a display of paintings by William Coldstream, who taught at the RCA alongside Minton, will also be on show, together with an exhibition of the work of Minton’s neo-romantic contemporaries.

All painting images courtesy Pallant House Gallery


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Exhibitions | Guinness World Record Prints

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Bernard Cheese (1927 > 1913)
A Fisherman’s Story, 1956
Colour lithograph
© Chloe, Joanna and
Sarah Cheese



Prints for the Pub:
The Guinness Lithographs
Pallant House Gallery
Chichester | UK
19 October 2016 > 15 January 2017



Alistair Grant (1925 > 1997)
Pigeon Racing, 1962
Colour lithograph
© The Estate of the Artist



With sales of more than 100 million copies in 100 different countries and 37 languages, Guinness World Records is the world’s best selling copyrighted book ever. Those responsible for the original Guinness Book of Records, launched in 1955, conceived it as a marketing tool for Guinness Breweries that might be useful for settling arguments in pubs.

Intended to be hung in pubs, bars and canteens, a set of lithographs, depicting records that reflected working class pursuits such as darts, pigeon racing, horse racing, fishing and football was commissioned to illustrate the 1956 annual. The images captured the sense of optimism and democratisation of art in the post-war period and formed part of a broadly-expressed effort to brighten public spaces that led to many commercial organisations including, among others, London Transport and Shell Mex, commissioning artists to create public works and bring art to the masses.

Rosamund Steed (1937 >)
aka Moss Fuller,
Sailing at Cork, 1962
Colour lithograph
© The Artist



Barnett Freedman (1901 > 1958)
The Darts Champion, 1956
Colour lithograph
© Permission of
Vincent Freedman



Ronald Glendening (1926 > 2014)
Cycle Racing, 1956
Colour lithograph
© Estate of the Artist


Among the best known print sets is the Lyons Lithographs (1947 > 55), originally conceived just after the war to provide redecoration for the Lyons Teashops at a time when refurbishment was impossible due to the unavailability of materials. The Festival of Britain Series of prints had appeared in 1951. It was followed two years later, by the Coronation Series, a group of 40 prints by 36 artists commissioned to record the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II produced at the Royal College of Art, where the six artists chosen to make the first Guinness lithographs: Edward Ardizzone, Edwin La Dell, Bernard Cheese, Brian Robb, Ronald Glendening and Barnett Freedman, all of whom, excluding Brian Robb – who would later become head of Illustration there – were students or staff.

A further group of six artists: David Gentleman, Alistair Grant, Richard Guyatt, Leonard Rosoman, Rosamund Steed and Carel Weight, were commissioned to provide prints for the 1962 book.

Both series are being exhibited in Prints for the Pub: The Guinness Lithographs, at Pallant House Gallery.

All images courtesy Pallant House Gallery


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Art | John Piper: Man of the Cloth

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Air Motif , 1966
from Chichester Cathedral Tapestry



John Piper:
The Fabric of Modernism
Pallant House Gallery
Chichester | UK
12 March > 12 June 2016



John Piper photographed by Nicholas Sinclair, 2000



Try to bring to mind what a typical, domestic, post-war British fabric design looked like. The image inside your head, if any, will probably resemble one of John Piper’s screen-printed designs for Arthur Sanderson & Sons.

Now imagine how a typical Anglican Church minister (albeit off-duty) should look. Sallow, long in the face, with high cheekbones and large fleshy ears – even by middle age his hair has receded and turned white – your vision might easily be John Piper himself. In his later years, the pious look would become increasingly appropriate to his output, especially with regard to his work in textiles.

Born John Egerton Christmas Piper in 1903, after art school at Richmond and Kingston and a brief year at the Royal College of Art, he began his career as a landscape artist then, after a visit to Paris in 1933, turned to abstraction, producing paintings, prints and collages inspired by Picasso. By 1938, however, he had returned to representational painting. In the 1930s, in pursuit of his great love of architecture, he had worked with John Betjeman on the Shell County Guides, and having been accepted into the Anglican church in 1939, while working as an official war artist from 1940, he asked to be allowed to concentrate on bombed churches. That year he would arrive the morning after the air raid that destroyed medieval Coventry cathedral to record the scene for a series of haunting paintings. During the following decade, having his first exhibition in New York, providing decorations for the British Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, and supervising the design of Battersea Pleasure Gardens with Osbert Lancaster, Piper would achieve national and international fame.

Chiesa de Salute, 1959, issued 1960*
Screenprint on Sanderlin fabric,
made by Arthur Sanderson.
Private collection



Abstract, 1955
Screenprinted rayon.
Published by David Whitehead Ltd.
Private collection



The repeat patterns of his commercial fabric designs – often abstract, sometimes based around architectural themes and landscapes and also including churches – reflected all that was going on in his own life and work in the 1950s. His involvement with textiles wasn’t unique, among his artist contemporaries, Henry Moore and Edward Paolozzi dabbled in fabric design too. But perhaps the catholic mix of subject matter in Piper’s work that rendered it suitable for use in modern, as well as more traditional homes ensured the commercial success that made it ubiquitous.

In 1958 Piper would return to Coventry Cathedral – then under reconstruction by Sir Basil Spenceto design a stained-glass window for its baptistry. The ecclesiastical robes he had created in the early 1950s for the clergy to wear for services at Coventry, and for Chichester and St Paul’s cathedrals may be clearly influenced by those designed by Matisse for the Chapel of the Rosary at Vence in France, but also make reference to the ballet productions Piper was involved in in the 1940s, and for the series of operas by Benjamin Britten, which he worked on.

But religion went out of fashion in the free-loving 60s, and just as Piper was on the cusp of elevation to the immortal pantheon of great British artists, by sacrificing fame for faith, consciously or otherwise, he was perhaps unjustly relegated to the second tier. Piper’s first tapestry designs, however, produced in 1966 for Chichester Cathedral represent a gathering together of a lifetime’s worth of ideas, imagery and personal fervour and are amongst the most important examples of twentieth century religious art. They form the centrepiece of the exhibition John Piper: The Fabric of Modernism at Pallant House Gallery.

All works by John Piper, © The Piper Estate, except* image reproduced by kind permission of Arthur Sanderson, a wholly owned subsidiary of Abaris Holdings Ltd, owners of the original copyright.
All images courtesy Pallant House Gallery


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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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