Bliss, Douglas Percy

(1900 – 1984)

Titian

Pencil, watercolour and pen & ink on paper

Signed

10 x 14 in. (25.5 x 35.5 cm).

DESCRIPTION

Provenance:
Artist’s Estate

Literature: Gargoyles & Tattie-Bogles: the lives and work of Douglas Percy Bliss and Phyllis Dodd, Fleece Press, 2018.

Bliss produced two series of Artists in their Studios, exhibited in London exhibitions in 1934 and 1937.  Many were sold.  

Ravilious, after seeing the exhibition in 1934, wrote to Bliss  as follows:

What an awfully good and lively show that was. Cezanne (sold I notice) and Van Gogh were damn good drawings – the landscape in the latter was boiling point. I loved it.  Holman Hunt, Toulouse Lautrec and Turner were the others I enjoyed most, the Turner I would have taken home if I could rub two halfpennies together……Congratulations on the show…..You should do well with these drawings. They are the goods.

(Letter from Ravilious to Bliss, 10.11.34)

‘Around the late 1920s Bliss embarked on a decade-long series of comical works based on the Old Masters, which he called Masterpieces in the Making. This combined his erudition, his irreverence, his skill as a watercolourist and his wit as a caricaturist. The scheme was to depict each master in his own style of painting and in his own typical studio setting. So, for example, in Nature Morte, Madame Cézanne sits as still as any apple with her elbow on a tipped-up one-legged table covered in fruit. Her husband concentrates ferociously on his canvas.

There are at least 33 of them, divided into two groups, the Renaissance and the 19th century.The earliest shows the Pictor Ignotus (Painter Unknown’) who specialized in painting gory martyrdoms, and then comes Uccello unable to join his frustrated wife in bed because he is too enthralled by that sweet thing Perspective’. Pisanello, Botticelli and Mantegna are followed by all the great masters in various droll tableaux including Raphael with a Pope and some camp cardinals, while Rubens wields a phallic mahlstick surrounded by his fleshy wives and children. In the later ones Gauguin is egged on by golden-skinned beauties, the Romantic Delacroix confronts the Classicist Ingres at a soiree, and a corpulent purple-trousered Courbet paints a sickly-looking Baudelaire.

These are mostly French but Stubbs, Morland, the Pre-Raphaelites and Haydon appear from England, and Goya from Spain. Other pictures outside the two groups show John Donne posing for his sculptured portrait in his shroud, Rembrandt in shades of gravy brown and a handsome Vel√°zquez painting hideous Spanish royals. Subtitles helpfully explain some of the painter’s research sources. They are a tour de force and deserve to be published in book form as Douglas intended, although the reader would need a comprehensive knowledge of art history to appreciate their full drollery. They were exhibited in 1934, 1937 and in 1938 to positive reviews; some sold, but no publisher came forward to encourage him to continue with them, or with the literary figures he planned to satirise next’.

We are grateful to Simon Lawrence and Malcolm Yorke for use of the  above text which appears in the excellent Fleece Press publication from 2017, Gargoyles & Tattie-Bogles, The Lives and Work of Douglas Percy Bliss& Phyllis Dodd, (with text by Malcolm Yorke

Disclaimer:
Liss Llewellyn are continually seeking to improve the quality of the information on their website. We actively undertake to post new and more accurate information on our stable of artists. We openly acknowledge the use of information from other sites including Wikipedia, artbiogs.co.uk and Tate.org and other public domains. We are grateful for the use of this information and we openly invite any comments on how to improve the accuracy of what we have posted.

THE ARTIST

Bliss, Douglas Percy

1900 – 1984

Douglas Percy Bliss (28 January 1900’11 March 1984) was a Scottish painter and art conservationist. Bliss’s family was from Northamptonshire, England. Bliss himself was born in Karachi, India (now in Pakistan). Bliss was raised in Edinburgh and educated at George Watson’s College from 1906 to 1917.

Bliss left school in 1917 to join the Highland Light Infantry until the end of WW1

In 1922 he was awarded an M.A. in English Literature by the University of Edinburgh. He had studied Art History in his first year. Bliss then studied painting at the Royal College of Art in London. In his post-graduate year he studied engraving. In 1925 the Oxford University Press published his engravings illustrating Border ballads. Bliss then received a number of commissions, including a commission to write A History of Wood Engraving. This work received such critical acclaim that Bliss’ reputation as an artist was overshadowed by his reputation as a critic and teacher.

In 1928 Bliss married Phyllis Dodd, who was a painter. Encouraged by his wife Bliss took up painting again, painting oil and watercolour landscapes in Scotland and England. Coincidentally his paintings record the end of an era of small-holding. He also painted some urban scenes just before the towns were transformed by high rise and high-density buildings.

In the 1930s Bliss established the Blackheath Society, which continues today to attempt to protect the amenity of life in south-east London. In the 1930s he taught at the Blackheath School of Art and was the London art critic for The Scotsman.

In 1941 Bliss joined the RAF and was stationed in Scotland. After the war he was appointed Director of the Glasgow School of Art. He referred to Glasgow as “the greatest industrial city in the Empire”. Bliss was instrumental in saving much of the Art Nouveau architecture and furniture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. He continued as Director from 1946 until 1964. When he completed his period as Director, Glasgow School of Art was listed by Whitaker’s Almanack among the six top Art Schools in Britain.

Bliss’s own art was exhibited around Britain. There was an exhibition of his work in the Glasgow School of Art, in the northern hemisphere summer of 1998.

Much of the work of Bliss’s youth has been lost. Most of his engravings were unpublished before the beginning of the War in 1939 and his entire collection was stolen during the Blitz. Decades later sixteen degraded blocks were identified at an auction. Most split when printing was attempted.

MORE PICTURES BY ARTIST