Literature: The Unknown Artist: Stanley Lewis and his contemporaries, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum, 12th June – 5th September 2010, Liss Fine Art, 2010.
Stanley entered the 1932 Rome Scholarship in Mural Painting under the
insistence of Rothenstein who was convinced that Lewis, having been
runner up two years earlier, was capable of winning a scholarship. Still
under the age of 25, by a matter of weeks, he was still just eligible
to enter, but this would be his last chance. Accordingly Stanley asked
the Director of Education at Newport, where he had recently accepted the
post of teaching assistant, for three months off.
thought I would never get the chance to enter the Prix de Rome again
but Rothenstein kept writing letters to me and encouraged me to enter
adding, “you;ll win next time”.
Stanley prepared initial
studies and cartoon at home, Llwyn-On, and then moved to London to
complete canvas during first few months of 1931. He knew Hyde Park well
from his days at the Royal College of Art – he loved going there to
sketch . The subject – a metropolitan scenescence – makes an interesting
pendant to his Allegory of two
years earlier. These two pictures might be seen as a discourse between
Town and Country. His choice of an overtly modern subject might also
have been to answer his critics who found that in Allegory “his field
workers are much more conscious of Rome than of their legitimate
business‚Ä¶.‚Äù. The characters in Hyde Park show no such detachment. The
painting gives a remarkable account of a summers day in central
London. Stanley resisted criticism from his fellow student and fiance,
Muriel Pemberton, who interfered
with the painting insisting he should be more modern in his approach.
Similar pressure was applied by Stanley ‘s landlady and Aunt, Sally
Taylor, herself a painter whose art
took you beyond the normal world – abstract and expressionism and so
on. Stan you might as well be a camera she said sniffly when she saw my
studies of the painting. And that is it really, I felt an inner force
burning to capture my world around exactly as I saw it in the reality
that it was.
That Hyde Park was only awarded third place,
a disappointment to Stanley, is perhaps not surprising – the
life-size scale of large scale cartoon (cat ) works wonderfully well but
the finished oil makes a better easel painting rather than a mural. The
painting is in fact closer in spirit to a Breughal ‚Äì rather than for
instance Puvis de Chavannes mural, and has the quality of a busy easel
painting rather than the static classicism that was so much the spirit
of the Rome School.
The composition was partly inspired by
Seurat. Stanley admired Seurats strong silhouettes ‚Äúdark figures
against the sky‚Äù, such as he had seen in Bathers at Asniers in the
National Gallery. Stanley was also aware of paintings by other artists
such as Philip Conard (a reproduction of whose 1923 R.A Exhibit
Kensington Gardens 1923 he kept in one of his scrap books) . It is
also highly likely than Stanley had in mind Percy Horton’s composition
Kensington Gardens (1923), Horton having been a teacher at The Royal
College of Art from 1922-1924.
Stanley himself appears center stage, reclining, his sketching bag to hand. My mother and sister made fun of his plus fours, which I bought for riding his Raleigh bike across London.
The models for the painting were mostly people Stanley saw in the park ‚Äì
‚Äúreal people are often like that ‚Äì groups of people enjoying
themselves‚Äù. He visited the Park early each morning to sketch the down
and outs who slept there at night. From numerous pocket book sketches
Stanley worked his figure studies up at his lodgings in Earls Court (see
cat. no. ). The man seated on the far right, reading, was Stanley’s
father. Stanley sourced other figures from his pocket book, ‚ÄúLook at Albrecht Durer ‚Äì he never left the house without a sketch book ‚Äìrecording a broken wall, a tree, a figure walking.‚Äù
Some of the models Lewis used were from Newport. Many of the children
were from Croesycieiliog. Mrs Roberts doing needlework (seated in red),
Clifford Barry, one of Stanley’s students at Newport who Stanley
considered to be a fine watercolourist, (seated extreme right smoking
and mid left drinking from a flask). The old lady seated in profile on
the left was a Royal College of Art Model. The fashionable lady holding
an umbrella arm in arm with a gentleman in a top hat was Miss Muriel
Pemberton, later head of fashion at St. Martins (a post she held until
she retired). At the time Lewis was courting her; she glances back
coquettishly towards him. Pemberton also served as the model for the
seated central figure with the Chinese parasol which Stanley recalls
going to buy as a compositional devise, to add colour, from Woolworths.
The figure in a red beret holding Stanley’s bicycle is his sister
Margaret. His young cousin Joan, (daughter of Aunt Sally) is playing
with a hoop – she was also the model for the girl eating an apple in
Allegory, Stanley’s first attempt at the Rome Scholarship. The woman in
light blue sitting on the ground and reading a book is a fellow student
from the Royal College of Art. The woman seated to the center left, in
blue, is Stanley’s cousin Edith .
As well as making 100s of
small sketches of Hyde Park Stanley also used his favourite box Kodak
camera to record the Park, sometimes squaring- up the photographs.
Hyde Park in Summer was also referred to by Stanley as simply The Park ‚Äì Study for a large Mural Decoration.