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Cover: No 18 (detail)


Anthony Eyton Near and Far 15 May - 7 June 2013

Monday - Friday 10.00 - 5.30 Saturday 11.00 - 2.00

Browse & Darby 19 Cork Street London W1S 3LP Tel: 020 7734 7984 Fax: 0207851 6650 email: art@browseanddarby.co.uk www. browseanddarby.co.uk


Anthony Eyton In Conversation with Andrew Lambirth Andrew Lambirth: It was Euan Uglow who called you ‘the fastest brush alive’. Is that still an appropriate nickname – or have you slowed down? Anthony Eyton: I have slowed down but occasionally it does apply. I think I can make very quick changes in a picture – the actual brushwork, getting the paint on. And I can do quick drawings. Euan used to say, ‘Never use the word sketch’, so I don’t. But I do make very quick drawings – sleight of hand, as you might say. There is a danger of being slick. I think speed can be a disadvantage if it’s mere skill without emotional contact. Skill can kill, if it has no contact with reality. But I’d love to know at what speed Cézanne painted, because he must have been very quick sometimes, and very slow at others. AL: Do you work from the imagination at all? AE: I think everything’s really got to come from nature. If I tried to imagine a thing it would be pretty hopeless. I do think the strength comes from reference to the object and not imagination; but it is imaginative to translate the ephemera coming in at you into a readable, powerful, cohesive thing. And to relate the parts. That takes immense imagination. AL: So when you’re out in the field, you take photographs and make drawings. Do you also make pastels? AE: Yes, and watercolours. AL: Which is your preferred medium at the moment? AE: Pastel for direct colour drawing. Watercolour is so difficult. In my mind’s eye, I’m painting in watercolour with a rag and taking a great big scoop of water and putting it on and letting the wateriness take over. But how I’d like to do it and how I actually do it are two different things. When I’m painting from nature, I don’t think about any Old Masters – it’s only what I see and getting that to fit the rectangle. But in the studio there’s a flavour of the day – it could be Caravaggio or Durer. It’s only to get one going, to prime the pump. It’s not really to copy – though I am doing a copy of a lost painting by Durer of women having a bath. I’m putting that into an Indian picture and pretending they’re on the Ganges. AL: How do you use photography? AE: In many ways. Very old black-and-white photographs of India, from say 1910, I would square up and copy as exactly as I possibly could. The colours are my invention. AL: You also take your own colour photographs, don’t you? AE: Yes I do and I’ve got an enormous collection which I use for the beach paintings, for instance. I pick and choose from photographs and then reinvent the scene, rather as Watteau made drawings and put together figures again and again. AL: But photographs haven’t taken the place of drawings for you, have they? AE: Oh, no, no. The ideal world is to have both. For instance I’m struggling with a drawing of the fish stall in Brixton Market which I couldn’t draw properly because the vegetable vendor opposite wouldn’t let me stand where I wanted to. So I’ve had to piece it together from photographs. I’ve had great difficulty making them work together – the figures with the stall and the awning.


AL: Do you get enough information from photographs? AE: Some photographs, for instance the India ones, give me all I want, because I can treat them as nature – a great tranche of people lining up on the banks of the Ganges, where my whole idea is to get the intensity of the attitudes, the faces, the hands, above all to make the light even more luminous. Luminosity is one of the things I’m interested in – stained glass and intense light. Think of Piero della Francesca or Rembrandt – it’s all about forms being revealed by light. AL: But light can also dissolve form... AE: And that immediately makes me think of Cy Twombly and Turner and Zen. My dilemma is whether I’m getting the intensity of the object in front of me, or is light the subject? I talk about Zen because it’s about lack of concentration, or concentration in another way. When you try too hard you don’t get it. The magic comes through some other way... AL: ...like catching sight of something from the corner of your eye instead of staring at it? AE: Yes, yes, exactly: you can see a person for a fraction of a second and recognize them. You know what Delacroix said? If you can’t draw a person falling past the window, you’re no good as an artist. And Matisse said much the same thing. They obviously had amazing memories. There’s a word ‘eidetic’ about carrying visions in your head. I am not eidetic. I have to have the thing in front of me. AL: Who are the most important artists to you at the moment? AE: I’d say Leon Kossoff and Basil Beattie were very important. AL: Interesting you should say that. I was going to ask you about what you have on your walls, and one of things is an amazing large charcoal drawing by Kossoff. How long have you had that? AE: Ten or fifteen years. It’s a nude called Fidelma. An extremely strong drawing: monumental. The marks are courageous: strangely wild but making a whole image at the same time. AL: You’ve also got some of your own pictures on the walls, and a lovely collection of your mother’s paintings. AE: Those are a daily joy for her sense of colour. I think her work is fantastic. I suppose that’s why I can’t be an abstract painter because there is this need to celebrate through paint what one sees. AL: But on another wall you’ve got a big abstract drawing by Nigel Hall. AE: Yes, that’s very fine too: we both like each other’s work. I like abstract work but I would have no idea where to begin if I were to do it myself, though I have been thinking about making collages. I really think that tearing up strips of paper would suit me, especially with a beach picture. Just as shapes and colour and balance. AL: Would they still be figurative? AE: No, I don’t think they’d have reference at all. AL: What is your attitude to modernity? AE: First of all: modernity is here. It was bound to happen – video, installation and so on. It’s a way, for mostly young people, of expressing the moment with vitality and imagination. As a Royal Academician I welcome the YBAs. Just as I’m attracted towards vulgarity sometimes, modern life is all flux and ephemera. The thing is, it’s not as simple as that. On a deeper level I think there’s something more out there – what I call the eternal verities. Stability, rocks, Courbet, Rembrandt, Giotto – they have that kind of strength.


AL: And you’ve always liked painting pictures of walls, haven’t you? AE: I’m glad you mentioned that because those are my best paintings, I think. They’re a direct transcription – like a landscape – of all those different bricks. Each one is different but they’ve got to make a cohesive whole in space. A painting of a wall can take three months and it takes you over completely. AL: Do you prefer painting man-made walls to rocks in a landscape? AE: Not really, rocks do have space and grandeur, but as a second best a wall is a wonderful subject. AL: How long have you lived in this house? AE: Fifty years. AL: The garden is a favourite subject. AE: I like it because I can just go out there, it’s near. AL: And far is Varanasi in India. AE: Where I’ve been about four times. AL: What is the fascination of India? AE: The first time I went there it was Poussin, because when you looked down from a train window it was all people in coloured robes. In the paintings of people going to the river it’s something about religion: the ritual. People all doing the same thing, with one idea in mind, but all different. The crowd. AL: What about an Old Age style, Tony? I’ve noticed that a number of artists discard the rules as they get older, because they’ve spent their lives following them. And what results is a kind of “anything goes” Old Age style. Do you feel that you’re approaching that at all? AE: People say to me that you can do what you like, but I think I do follow the rules – my own rules – perhaps too much. I think one is subject to one’s limitations. I often wonder how much of a rebel I am. AL: When you were at Camberwell (1947-50) for instance, it was all to do with structure and measuring. Do you pay attention to those rules now? AE: Not as much, but I still measure the uprights against the horizontals, and get it to mesh that way, although I try to do as much as possible by eye to get the rhythm. In the end, I’m still sticking a brush up and measuring things, though it’s a bit more fluid now, and theatrical perhaps. At Camberwell we were dismally constricted as regards colour. ‘Gosh, we painted dark pictures in those days! ’, as Patrick George says. I can’t think what got into us, though it was supposed to be tonal. I hate the word tonal, unless it’s the kind of tonal organization you get in Velazquez. AL: You’ve said in the past that you have no method, and that you forget you’ve ever seen a painting before when you start a new picture. AE: I think that’s probably true. I’m not conscious of any particular painter then – not even myself. AL: A sort of innocent eye? AE: It can’t be exactly innocent, because I do look at things in pictorial terms. But that’s not thinking of ways of interpreting a subject. It’s a fresh eye, whether it’s innocent is another matter. Every time you go out to the same subject – and this could take a couple of years – it has an impact on you, it’s surprising you, and you get caught up into it. That’s what happens. And you notice things you’d never noticed before. That’s why nature is so revealing – it just hooks you – looking different each time – and to solve it all is part of the problem. I like having a problem. For me it is an accrual of experiences in time brought to some sort of resolution. Even I can resolve things, though I like


to keep it open. The power of suggestion should appeal to people. That’s why I like beginnings rather than endings. You’ve got to keep that going, yet it’s also got to be firm, strong and stand up as a painting. AL: A bit of a tight-rope walk then. Is it still difficult to know when a picture is finished? AE: Very, for me. I love starting and having a lot of pictures on the go. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get entirely involved with one picture. AL: Constable was a very important early influence on you. Do you still think about him? AE: I don’t go and look at him, I take him for granted rather, he’s so strong in the background. I suppose that’s the same for Corot. Now I’m more likely to be thinking of Rubens, Titian or Caravaggio. AL: Back in 1989, in our very first interview together, you talked about ‘painting the delights of the world’. Is that still what you’re doing? AE: That seems a bit one-sided. The ugliness of the world sometimes as well: people have good sides and bad sides. AL: Is there anything to the painter that is ugly though? AE: Constable said: ‘There is nothing ugly in the world, madam. Light, shade and perspective will make it beautiful.’ Yes, I think that’s true. AL: What about Coldstream – does he still figure in your thoughts at all? AE: I think he was a great painter. They do have air in them. And what’s in the air is very much on the picture plane because he was so averse to modelling, preferring carving. I don’t notice the measuring marks, though I know people don’t like them. He just gets the essence of a body, a flower or the landscape in a very beautiful way: a lovely painter. AL: Who do you think, looking back over your life, has been the single most important influence on you? AE: I’d say Enid Canning, for opening my eyes right at the beginning: she taught art at Canford School in Dorset. Then, Professor Anthony Betts at Reading, where I spent a term before going into the Army. He taught me to draw figures and use a sketchbook. It was from him that I got the habit of working from drawings. Completely different from the Camberwell thing of direct observation. AL: You’ve said that Camberwell wasn’t versed in rules, it was versed in perception. AE: Quite true. We were supposed not to know about perspective, not to know how bones worked, not do anatomy. Instead to perceive, to observe. It wasn’t what you knew but what you saw. AL: And that’s what you still adhere to really? AE: Yes, so I don’t have any technique. It comes out of what you’re looking at. And we have to stick at it. That’s the main thing, I suppose. That’s what’s wonderful about painting in front of nature: it’s a conversation you have. It’s saying something all the time and you’re probing, you’re drawing back, you’re hesitating, and it won’t come right. But then you go out next day and wham! it goes into you. Recorded in March 2013 at Anthony Eyton’s South London home, and subsequently edited.


11.


10.


1.


15.


26.


20.


7.


31.


29.


32.


8.


3.


16.


41.


17.


2.


9.


14.


18.


30.


13.


33.


38.

37.


CATALOGUE 1.

The Summer Garden, Brixton, oil on canvas, 49 1/2 x 41 1/4 ins

15.

Yellow Umbrellas, Varinasi oil on board, 40 x 55 inches

2.

Trees and Ferns pastel on board, 48 1/4 x 39 1/4 ins

16.

Bathers, Varinasi pastel on board, 46 3/4 x 64 1/4 inches

3.

Trees and Solomon’s Seal pastel on paper, 39 x 33 ins

17.

The Ghat, Varinasi (Two Umbrellas) oil on canvas, 51 x 64 inches

4.

Knowle Park, Kent oil on canvas, 20 x 17 1/2 inches

18.

Festival oil on canvas, 64 1/4 x 71 3/4 inches

5.

Emerging Cherry Blossom oil on canvas, 46 x 39 1/4 inches

19.

Men on the steps, Varinasi pastel on board, 29 1/2 x 39 inches

6.

Rocks and Trees oil on canvas, 41 1/2 x 47 1/2 inches

20.

Bathers before the Temple pastel on board, 34 1/2 x 42 1/4 inches

7.

Portuguese Laurel I oil on canvas, 63 1/2 x 45 inches

21.

Indian Bathers (after Durer) oil on canvas, 23 1/2 x 29 1/4 inches

8.

Portuguese Laurel II oil on canvas, 40 x 33 1/2 inches

22.

Morning on the Ghats oil on board, 18 3/4 x 29 inches

9.

The propped up Walnut Tree oil on canvas, 50 x 40 1/2 inches

23.

The Fallen Temple oil on canvas, 23 1/8 x 31 1/2 inches

10.

The Fireplace oil on canvas, 35 x 30 3/4 inches

24.

Morning Bathers watercolour and pastel on board, 33 x 47 3/4 inches

11.

The Studio oil on canvas, 54 1/4 x 73 inches

25.

Sunrise on the Ganges oil on canvas, 21 1/2 x 28 inches

12. 13.

Zeus oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 36 inches

26.

Bathers on the steps, Varinsai Oil on canvas, 36 1/2 x 59 inches

Rio oil on canvas, 64 1/2 x 105 inches

27.

The Swimming Pool, Hotel La Residencia, Mallorca oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 32 inches

14.

The Ganges, Varinasi oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 60 1/2 inches

28.

Coney Island, New York oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches


29.

Ciara oil on canvas, 35 x 39 inches

30.

Ciara by the Mantelpiece pastel on board, 48 x 32 inches

31.

Save the Library, Brixton Town Hall oil on canvas, 30 x 39 1/4 inches

32.

Fishmonger, Brixton Market oil on canvas, 52 x 68 inches

33.

June. St Paul’s from Bracken House. pastel on paper, 17 3/4 x 20 inches

34.

On the River, Varinasi watercolour on paper, 14 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

35.

Buildings on the Ganges watercolour on paper, 9 x 11 inches

36.

The Ripple watercolour on paper, 16 x 22 inches

37.

Red Temple pastel on paper, 21 1/4 x 28 inches

38.

Yellow Temple and The Ganges watercolour on paper, 21 1/2 x 26 1/4 inches

39.

Yellow Sari pastel on paper, 23 1/4 x 15 1/2 inches

40.

Pathway, Varinasi watercolour and ink on paper, 14 1/2 x 19 1/4 inches

41.

On the Beach, Rio gouache on paper, 9 1/2 x 11 inches

42.

Deia, Mallorca – Hotel La Residencia watercolour, 15 1/2 x 18 inches


ANTHONY EYTON R.A. 1923 1941 1947 1951-52 1972 1973 1975 1976 1989 1999-2010 2011

Born Department of Fine Art, Reading University Attended Camberwell School of Art Abbey Major Scholarship to work in Italy John Moores Competition prize winner Grocers’ Company Fellowship to work in Italy 2nd British International Drawing Biennale, Middlesborough, 1st Prize Elected Royal Academician Charles Wollaston Award, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Resident Artist, Eden Project, Cornwall Awarded Honorary Fellowship from the University of The Arts, London

Selected Exhibitions 1959, 61, 68 New Art Centre, London 1973 New Grafton Gallery, London 1975 William Darby Gallery, London 1978, 81, 85, 87, 90, 93, 2000, 05, 09, 13 Browse & Darby, London 1980 Retrospective, South London Art Gallery, Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne and Plymouth Art Gallery 1983 Hong Kong and the New Territories, Imperial War Museum, London 1997 A. T. Kearney, London 2006 Drawing Inspiration, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, 2006 Kunst Galerie, Zell Am See, Austria 2007 The Discerning Eye, Prizewinner, Mall Galleries, London 2009-10 Evolutions of a Cornish clay pit, Eden Project, Cornwall 2011 Spitalfields Paintings:1968-1984. Revisited 2011, Eleven Spitalfields, London 2012 Built, Mall Galleries, London Public Collections Arts Council of Great Britain Bristol, Royal West of England Academy British Museum Carlisle Art Gallery Contemporary Arts Society Government Picture Collection Guildhall Art Gallery Imperial War Museum

Land Securities Leicester Royal Infirmary Middlesborough Art Gallery National Westmister Bank Plymouth Art Gallery Reuters Tate Gallery Unilever

Publications Jenny Pery, Eyton’s Eye, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2005 Indian Memories, Two Generations, The Journal of Phyllis Eyton, illustrations by Anthony Eyton, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1996


Browse & Darby 19 Cork Street London W1S 3LP

Anthony Eyton - Near and Far  

Paintings and pastels of Rio, India and Brixton by renowned Royal Academician, celebrating his 90th birthday.

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