Art Gallery visit – Graves Gallery, Sheffield

This is a small gallery, consisting of a few rooms only, but has some excellent work. I was immediately drawn to the more recent works, and tried to look for ones that would help me to think about part 4.


Stanley Spencer 1937 Helter Skelter

We had been discussing this Stanley Spencer at the OCA visit with tutor Bryan Eccleshall, and here it was! I see what he means about the painting being in two halves. The lower shambolic looking buildings, and the top brightly painted tower. I was stuck by the lack of people – it looks empty and the gloomy sky casts an eerie feel over it. The year of 1937 gives a bit of a clue with the imminent WW2 and the artist going through a divorce that year – wouldn’t put you in the mood to paint a happy scene.

It has his precise painting, but with the different sections all being different- eg. the slide, fence posts, wooden panels, no two are the same.

This cements this artist in my mind as one that I can really appreciate now.


Peter Blake. 1955. Footsteps

I thought this was very relevant to part 4 and 5 of this course – my environment. The scattered items look like someones just emptied out their pockets. Fag packets, matchsticks, foot ball cards, sweet wrappers. How would it look if I emptied my pockets out – in fact of all the family – would we get a clue to our personalities? This has given me an idea for the future! I stood in front of it and drew it, as I’m finding that drawing these paintings really makes me look deeper at them.


Harold Gilman. 1913. Ealing House

I came across another painting of this artist at the Walker Gallery and I really like how he uses paint. Here the composition is interesting. The wooden board at the front is a device I realised Stanley Spencer uses a lot – it makes me feel I’m spying over it looking at the rest of the cafe. Their flat caps make it look a working class cafe where everyone is looking down and minding their own business. Who would think of a composition in a cafe where you can’t see more than a quarter of anyone in it? The paint is thick and impasto and looks darker than this reproduction – it looks quite dingy in this cafe.


Jean and table top. John Bratby. 1953/4

Another one relevant to current study. John Bratby was a ‘kitchen sink’ painter I read. His wife sits staring into space – bored? Sad? She looks smaller than the table – a device I guess. to make her seem overwhelmed by the kitchen tasks? Nothings been put away, all the crumpled packets are left out. Drawing it helped me see things I had missed – curling packets and milk bottles. The paint is thick in places and thin in others – its quite crude marks in some places like her cardigan. The hands are a single stroke wet in wet, quite simple.


Gwen John. Corner of the ARtists room 1907/9

I’ve come across this before in previous courses and was so glad to see it in the flesh. There didn’t seem much in the room, but then I drew it, and saw the Parisian landscape through the net curtains. There are angular lines, which contrast with the casually thrown umbrella and shawl. It’s delicately painted. I read it was painted in the last months of her affair with Rodin, and I wondered if the empty chair was a metaphor for him?


Head of JYM. 1973. Frank Auerbach

I love this angle of the head. The thick pains looks energetic and expressive. Fascinating to see how the different colours are dragged through to mix. I read he scrapes a lot of paintings down and am not surprised this technique goes wrong a lot. Drawing this head was hard!


J.D Innes. Landscape with figure. 1911

As I was about to leave as the parking meter neared its end, I couldn’t help but look at this little painting. I recognised the colours of the artist right away, as this is a favoured holiday place of mine. I have seen him use purple before, but I think this was the top of a mountain. I like the darker echoes of purple in the water. This lady is an artists friend’s wife he was in love with, and I get the feeling that she and the mountain are both something he holds dear.


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