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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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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