Sir Matthew Smith 2015

Page 1

Matthew Smith


Matthew Smith 1879 - 1959

10 June – 15 July 2015

Monday - Friday 10 - 5.30 Saturday 11 - 2.00

Browse & Darby Cover: No.13 Landscape near Aix, 1932, (detail) Works marked with an asterisk * are not for sale.

19 Cork Street London W1S 3LP Tel: 020 7734 7984 Fax: 020 7851 6650 email: art@browseanddarby.co.uk www.browseanddarby.co.uk


Matthew Smith: Passionate Realist Matthew Smith (1879-1959) is the master of luscious, unmannerly paintwork. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, his work has a breadth and freedom of attack which raises the spirits and applies itself to the senses. Although he communicates directly and easily with paint, his statements are not in any way subject to the constraints of precision. And yet neither is he slapdash, although like all artists he could be hit-or-miss. Famously Francis Bacon praised Smith’s paint-handling, identifying it with his own approach. Bacon wrote: ‘I think that painting today [1953] is pure intuition and luck and taking advantage of what happens when you splash the stuff down, and in this game of chance Matthew Smith seems to have the gods on his side.’ Like Bacon himself, when he was on top form Smith knew how to exploit chance and was prepared to take risks in his search for a telling image. Bacon also spoke of Smith’s interlocking of image and paint, so that the one actually becomes the other. Smith favoured alla prima painting – wet into wet – which is a technique dedicated to spontaneity and the fluidity of options. The brush creates form and every gesture not only changes the picture’s look, but also its implications and potential. Smith painted the expected subjects of Western art: still-life (flowers and fruit), the figure (portrait and nude), and the landscape, but in a thoroughly individual and modern way. Although his work is rooted in such Old Masters as Veronese, Rubens, Delacroix and Ingres, he studied briefly with Matisse and France was his spiritual home. He went there for the first time in 1908, to Pont Aven, which was still redolent of Gauguin. Smith always said his life really began then. The earliest painting in this exhibition, and one of the first pictures in Smith’s catalogue raisonné, is Still-life with Forget-Me-Nots, inscribed verso ‘Paris 1908’, but probably dating from a couple of years later when we know Smith actually visited the French capital. The colour is dabbed onto the panel almost with insouciance. The brown of the wooden support is left bare in many places and becomes the warm base against which the colours sing – particularly the touches of blue and the tracery of green. A century on, the immediacy of the image is clearly conveyed to the viewer. If that first painting is not entirely what we expect of Matthew Smith, it nevertheless has a presence and authenticity that were to be characteristic of the mature artist. Although undeniably a passionate Francophile, Smith was not so much a European painter as an English one who derived much strength from contact with the European tradition. The writer and critic John Russell, a good friend of Smith, wrote: ‘There was nothing in his attachment to France of that slovenly, easy-going relationship which persuades so many bad painters and writers that they are better off in France than in their own country. His was a watchful and a constructive allegiance, and to see him walk down a French street was an education in awareness.’ A crucial connection was with the Irish painter resident in France, Roderic O’Conor (1860-1940), whom Smith met in 1919 and later called ‘Mon Maître’. In his use of powerful colour, O’Conor was a Fauve before the Fauves and understood van Gogh and Gauguin perhaps better than anyone else. Certainly his landscapes of the 1890s were an important inspiration to Smith. Although one of his primary intentions was undoubtedly to liberate and intensify colour, Matthew Smith was not a latter-day Fauve, and to adopt such a categorization is misleading. His work was realistic in approach – you can see some of the vigour of Courbet in his nudes and landscapes – but also romantic, uninhibited, voluptuous. He was a great independent. One of the turning points in Smith’s life was a visit to Cornwall in 1920, when inspiration struck through the gloom of deep depression caused by his involvement in the First World War. (He was wounded in the battle of Passchendaele, and also suffered shellshock. Subsequently, he was often a prey to nervous disorders.) There is one painting here from Cornwall – a landscape arranged around a dark green diagonal of vegetation plunging from top right to bottom left, surrounded by purply-reds. At this

point Smith’s palette was at its darkest and most compellingly venomous, when his reds were so deeply crimson as to be nearly black. One of the finest paintings in this show is the spectacular Près de Lyons (1922), the first of his Lyons series, in which the mood has lightened from the Cornish scenes but the dark richness of the colour retains its full efflorescence. The mature paintings, all curves and baroque arabesques, were not based on observation so much as on an inner vision, an imaginative reinterpretation of things seen and long known, a personal truth of much conviction. Smith used colour to construct a painting, through expressive brushmarks in which drawing and painting are one. These bold linear rhythms have great fluency and yet at the same time furnish the picture with an ordered sense of design, however intuitively (rather than rationally) arrived at. Among the still-life paintings in this show are the crazily up-ended Still-life with Blue Jug and Date Box (c1925), kite-like, unstable yet unmistakeably dynamic; the vibrant and joyously excessive Still-life with Flowers and Striped Cloth (c1931); the classic Smith composition Still-life with White Dish and Fruit, the dish crisply outlined against blue and red and foregrounded with golden fruit; and the luminous late Still-life with Bananas (c1950), so bright as to be almost (though not quite) lurid, executed with a master’s late touch, sensual and supremely painterly. By contrast, two excellent examples of his mature approach to landscape are the painting of Yorkshire (c1931), a vigorous balance between vertical right-hand edge of trees and hillside, and the horizontal streaming of the countryside climbing in strata up the picture plane, receding through a spinney to the hill above and strip of sky; and the altogether more horizontal panorama of Landscape near Aix (1932), painted in front of the subject though with more than a hint of the reclining nude about it. The writer Roald Dahl told a very moving story of tracking Smith through a series of London boarding houses and cheap hotels during 1941, just after the artist had lost both sons in the RAF, and when Dahl himself was a fighter pilot on sick leave. The two became good friends and Dahl built up a substantial holding of Smith’s work. Two of the paintings in the present exhibition come from Dahl’s collection: Still-Life with Forget-Me-Nots, discussed earlier, and Landscape near Lyons (III). The latter, a wonderfully tipped-up image of haphazard purple houses either side of a vibrant red street, has been identified as Cornish Landscape, circa 1920, but there is an intriguing inscription on the verso. ‘Painted by Matthew Smith who writes this; think its Lyons not Cornwall. Probably can prove this later, in great haste.’ John Gledhill, compiler of the Matthew Smith catalogue raisonné, thus re-titles it Landscape near Lyons (III), with the date of 1922. Such mix-ups are typical of Smith who rarely titled or dated any of his pictures. Smith was essentially a realist painter, not a Fauvist, an Expressionist or a Symbolist; think of the massive and totally convincing physicality of his women, like the slumberous semi-nude here. He possessed a remarkable and highly sophisticated colour sensibility and his chief interest was in paint rather than narrative or illustration. He wanted simply to make a painted equivalent of something he had seen and found beautiful. His pictures are about celebration and the way he celebrated best was through the manipulation of paint. The distinguished critic PG Konody, writing in 1929, asserted that Matthew Smith’s was ‘the most significant – perhaps the only significant – contribution made by England to the modern movement in painting.’ Looking at his work now with a fresh eye, the passionate lyrical freedom of his paint compels more than ordinary admiration.

Andrew Lambirth April 2015


1.*

Still life with forget-me-nots, circa 1910 oil on panel inscribed verso ‘Matthew Smith Paris 1908’ 13 x 16 inches

Exhibited London, Royal Academy of Arts, A Memorial Exhibition of Works by Sir Matthew Smith C.B.E. 1879-1959, 15 October – 7 December 1960 (cat. no. 6) London, Browse & Darby, Matthew Smith 1879-1959, A Centenary Exhibition, 4 October – 3 November 1979 (cat. no.3) London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Barbican Art Gallery, Matthew Smith, 15 September – 30 October 1983 (cat. no.6, pl. p8)

Literature John Gledhill, Matthew Smith: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings (Lund Humphries, 2009) no. 8

John Gledhill notes that the artist’s inscription was added later and the date is probably incorrect. If correct, however, it would indicate that Smith arrived in Paris earlier than is usually assumed to be the case.

Provenance Roald Dahl Private Collection, USA


2.*

Cornish landscape, circa 1920 oil on board 5 1/8 x 6 1/2 inches

Exhibited London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco

Provenance Private Collection, UK


3.

Landscape near Lyons (III), 1922 oil on canvas inscribed on reverse of canvas: ‘Painted by Matthew Smith/who writes this/Think it Lyons not Cornwall/Probably can prove this later, in great haste’ 15 x 18 inches

Provenance Roald Dahl Private Collection


4.

Prés de Lyons, 1922 oil on canvas signed lower right; titled, dated and inscribed on the reverse 15 x 18 inches

Provenance Mme. Meerson, France E. Shaw-Kennedy Esq. Mr J.C. Farley Austin Desmond, London Private Collection, UK

Exhibited London, Arthur Tooth & Sons and Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Matthew Smith - A Loan Exhibition, 27 April – 27 May 1976 (cat. no. 26) London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Barbican Art Gallery, Matthew Smith, 15 September – 30 October 1983 (cat. no. 29) London, Crane Kalman Gallery, Matthew Smith Landscapes, 22 April – 12 June 2010 Bath, Victoria Art Gallery, Matthew Smith Landscapes, 27 June – 5 September 2010

Literature John Gledhill, Matthew Smith: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings (Lund Humphries, 2009) no. 102, pl. 14


5.*

Nude I, circa 1924 oil on canvas 21 1/4 x 28 3/4 inches

Provenance Private Collection, UK

Exhibited Belfast, Ulster Museum, 1981

Literature John Gledhill, Matthew Smith: Catalogue RaisonnĂŠ of the Oil Paintings (Lund Humphries, 2009) no. 167, pl. 20


6.

Still life with tulips, circa 1920s oil on canvas inscribed with initials 24 x 19 3/4 inches

Provenance The Artist’s family, and thence by descent to the previous owner


Still life with blue jug and date box, circa 1925 oil on canvas 32 x 25 3/4 inches

7.*

Provenance Private Collection, UK

Exhibited London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, 1956, Two Masters of Colour: Matthew Smith and Roderic O’Conor (cat no. 5, ill.) Nairobi, Sorsbie Gallery, 1962 London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, 1963, Matthew Smith, Paintings; Philip Sutton, Drawings (cat. no. 11) Sydney, David Jones Art Gallery, 1965, Matthew Smith, Roderic O’Conor (cat. no. 9) London, Arthur Tooth & Sons and Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Matthew Smith - A Loan Exhibition, 27 April – 27 May 1976 (cat. no.58) London, Browse & Darby, Sir Matthew Smith C.B.E. 1879-1959, 21 September – 22 October 1983 (cat. no. 14) London, Browse & Darby, Matthew Smith 1879-1959, 20 April – 26 May 2006 (cat. no. 10, ill.)

Literature Malcolm Yorke, Matthew Smith: His Life and Reputation, (London: Faber & Faber, 1997) pl. 41. John Gledhill, Matthew Smith: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings (Lund Humphries, 2009) no. 209


8. *

Still life with tulips in a blue jug, 1926 oil on canvas 21 1/4 x 17 1/2 inches

Provenance Private Collection, UK


9.

Laura the Parrot, circa 1928 oil on canvas 30 x 25 inches

Provenance Mr Hugh Walpole Mr & Mrs F W Halliday Private collection, UK

Exhibited London, The London Group, January 1929 (cat. no.11) Arthur Tooth & Sons, Recent Paintings by Matthew Smith, April 1932 (cat. no.3) London, The Tate Gallery, Matthew Smith, Paintings from 1909-1952, 3 September – 18 October 1953 (cat. no.40) London, Royal Academy of Arts, A Memorial Exhibition of Works by Sir Matthew Smith C.B.E. 1879-1959, 15 October – 7 December 1960 (cat. no.153) London, Crane Kalman Gallery, A Selection of Thirty Paintings by Matthew Smith 1879-1959, 10 May – 21 July 1990 (cat. no.10, pl. p19) London, Browse & Darby, Matthew Smith 1879-1959, 20 April – 26 May 2006 (cat. no.14, ill.)

Literature Malcolm Yorke, Matthew Smith: His Life and Reputation, (London: Faber & Faber, 1997) pl. 38. John Gledhill, Matthew Smith: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings (Lund Humphries, 2009) no. 265

According to Malcolm Yorke Laura was in fact a green Amazon parakeet belonging to Vera Cunningham, who had a number of these birds over the years. There are at least two oil paintings of the bird, and it also features in figure compositions from the period. This picture was painted in London, at Smith’s studio at 78 Grove End Road.


10.

Yellow flowers in a round vase, circa 1928 oil on canvas 18 1/8 x 13 3/4 inches

Provenance Dr. Richard Alexander, acquired 1989 Thence by descent to the previous owner


11.

Provenance with Roland, Brose & Delbanco, London Mr Ivor Novello, Colonel Robert Henriques, M.B.E., Gloucestershire, by 1960 Mrs David Henriques Mrs Westbury, June 1978 Private collection, UK

Exhibited London, Royal Academy of Arts, A Memorial Exhibition of Works by Sir Matthew Smith C.B.E. 1879-1959, 15 October – 7 December 1960 (cat. no. 148, as ‘Flowers in a vase-white cloth, red stripes’) London, Arthur Tooth & Sons and Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Matthew Smith - A Loan Exhibition, 27 April – 27 May 1976 (cat. no. 54, as ‘Flowers in a Vase on white cloth with red’)

Literature John Gledhill, Matthew Smith: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings (Lund Humphries, 2009) no. 331, pl. 151

Still life with flowers and striped cloth, circa 1931 oil on canvas 29 1/4 x 23 3/4 inches


12.

Yorkshire landscape, circa 1931 oil on canvas 24 x 30 inches

Provenance With Piccadilly Gallery, 1965 Private collection, UK Exhibited Brook Street Gallery (early exhibition but date unknown) Literature John Gledhill, Matthew Smith: Catalogue RaisonnĂŠ of the Oil Paintings (Lund Humphries, 2009) no. 352 Malcolm Yorke, Matthew Smith: His Life and Reputation, (London: Faber & Faber, 1997) pl. 37.


13.

Landscape near Aix, 1932 oil on canvas 18 1/2 x 26 inches

Provenance Mr James Archdale Private collection, UK

Exhibited London, Alex, Reid & Lefevre, Paintings by Matthew Smith, 10 July - 1 August 1942 (cat. no.16) Arts Council Touring Exhibition, Three Masters of Modern British Painting, 1958 (cat. no. 12, as Near Aix-en-Provence) London, Royal Academy of Arts, A Memorial Exhibition of Works by Sir Matthew Smith C.B.E. 1879-1959, 15 October – 7 December 1960 (cat. no. 164)

Literature Philip Hendy, Matthew Smith (London: Penguin Modern Painters Series, 1944), ill. pl.8 John Gledhill, Matthew Smith: Catalogue RaisonnĂŠ of the Oil Paintings (Lund Humphries, 2009) no. 395


14.

Head of a woman, thought to be Elisabeth White, circa 1942 oil on canvas 16 1/2 x 13 1/4 inches

Provenance Bought from Arthur Tooth February 1938, ÂŁ60 Private collection, UK

Exhibited Birmingham, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Modern French & English Paintings and Drawings, 1938 Canada, National Gallery of Canada, Montreal & Toronto Art Galleries, Archdale Collection of Art, 1941, 1944 Birmingham, University of Birmingham Staff House, 1968

Illustrated in hanging photographs for 1944 exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada


15.

Still life with white dish and fruit oil on canvas 16 x 20 inches

Provenance Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London Private collection, UK


16.

The lustre jug, 1943 signed with initials oil on canvas 19 3/4 x 28 3/4 inches

Provenance Arthur Tooth & Sons, London Mrs T.C.S. Haywood, by 1960

Literature John Rothenstein, Matthew Smith, Beaverbrook Newspapers, London, 1962, p.32, illus John Gledhill, Matthew Smith Catalogue RaisonnĂŠ of the Oil Paintings, Lund Humphries, Farnham, 2009, cat. no.578, p.221, illus

Exhibitions London, Royal Academy, A Memorial Exhibition of Works by Sir Matthew Smith, 15 October - 7 December 1960 cat. no.232.


17.*

Still life with fruit and gothic figure, circa 1944 oil on canvas 9 1/4 x 13 1/2 inches

Provenance Private collection, UK Exhibited London, Browse & Darby, British & French Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture, 2000 (no. 45)

18.

Still life with bananas, apples and grapes, 1950 oil on canvas 11 x 16 7/8 inches

Literature John Gledhill, Matthew Smith: Catalogue RaisonnĂŠ of the Oil Paintings (Lund Humphries, 2009) no. 622

Literature John Gledhill, Matthew Smith: Catalogue RaisonnĂŠ of the Oil Paintings (Lund Humphries, 2009) no. 683


Biography 1879 1900-04 1905-7 1907 1908 1909 1910-12 1911 1912 1913 1913-19 1916 1917 1920 1921 1922 1923-26 1924 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934-40

Born 22 October in Halifax Art Department of Municipal College of Technology, Manchester Slade School of Art, London Attended summer painting school in Whitby, where he met Gwendolen Salmond, also a painter who studied at the Slade and daughter of Major General Sir William Salmond, K.C.B. Nine months’ stay at Pont Aven, Brittany, where Gauguin, Serusier and O’Conor used to paint Six months’ stay at Etaples Stayed in Paris and attended Matisse’s school. Studied in the Louvre and other galleries and became influenced by Fauvism. Exhibited three paintings at the Salon des Indépendants Married Gwendolen Salmond in England. Honeymoon in South of France, exhibited at Salon des Indepéndants Settled at Grez sur Loing, near Paris. Visited Paris and Brittany. Studio in Fitzroy Street, London Enlisted for the army and mobilised Reached France for the battles of Arras and Ypres. Severely wounded and returned to England Six months stay in Cornwall painting mainly landscapes. Exhibited works with the London Group and became a member of the Group Visited Cornwall, Somerset, Brittany and Gréz Entered Clinique Valmont in Lausanne, Switzerland. Consulted another doctor in Lyon and remained there to paint. Met Vera Cunningham in London, in the winter. Lived mainly at 6 bis, Villa Brune, Paris, with Vera, but kept London studio at Charlotte Street until 1924. Roger Fry visited Paris and bought nudes by Smith and O’Conor for the Contemporary Art Society. Aged 47, has first one-man exhibition at the Mayor Gallery, London. Visited Dieppe. Second one-man exhibition at Alex, Reid & Lefevre. Moved to 78 Grove End Road. Produced many Flower paintings. Visited Dieppe and Yorkshire. Retrospective exhibition at Arthur Tooth & Sons, who became his dealer. Moved to Paris in the winter Visited the Auvergne and Arles. Painted Sunita, Epstein’s model, in Paris Painted many nudes of Vera Cunningham in Paris and flower paintings. Summer holiday with Vera in Hardrow, Yorkshire Exhibition of Recent Paintings at Tooth’s. Visited Burgundy. Holiday in Yorkshire with Vera Cunningham. Spent the winter in Aix-en-Provence painting landscapes First visit to Cagnes-sur-mer Lived at Aix-en-Provence. Lasting friendship with Francis Halliday who becomes his most enthusiastic patron

1934 1938 1939 1940 1941 1940-53 1942 1943-47 1949 1950 1953 1954 1955 1956-59 1957 1959 1960

Exhibition of his paintings at the Hague. Exhibition at Tooth’s, from which the Contemporary Art Society bought a landscape Showed 23 paintings at Venice Biennale. Cleared out Villa Seurat, his last Paris studio and remained in Aix until December Exhibition at the Leicester Galleries, the sale of Epstein’s important collection of Smith’s paintings. Entered Clinique Valmont, Lausanne His son Mark killed in a flying accident. Returned to London from Paris at the time of the fall of France Met Mary Keene. His second and last son Dermot killed in action Lived in London Retrospective exhibition at Temple Newsam House, Leeds, of Smith and Epstein’s work together Matthew Smith by Sir Phillip Hendy, Director of the National Gallery, published in the Penguin Modern Masters series, 1944. Travelled to Paris, Switzerland and Aix-en-Provence Awarded the C.B.E. One-man exhibition of 26 works in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale Underwent operation on one eye for removal of cataract Retrospective exhibition of paintings from 1909-52 at the Tate Gallery Received knighthood. Entered Clinique Valmont, Lausanne Vera Cuningham died Visited Dieppe. Received Honorary Doctorate from University of London. First visit to Venice. Visited Avignon and Aix His wife, Gwen, died Last journey abroad-to Tenerife with Sir John Salmond, his brother-in-law Died 29th September from an illness which had begun four years’ previously Memorial exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts

Major Exhibitions 1926 1927 1929 1932, 36, 38, 50 1939 1942 1953 1960 1976 1979 1983 1983 2006

The Mayor Gallery, London, Paintings by Matthew Smith Alex, Reid & Lefevre Ltd, Paintings by Matthew Smith Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings by Matthew Smith Venice Biennale, British Pavilion Leicester Galleries, London, A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings by Matthew Smith. The Collection of Jacob Epstein Temple Newsam House, Leeds, Jacob Epstein and Matthew Smith The Tate Gallery, London, Matthew Smith, Paintings from 1909-52 Royal Academy of Arts, London, Memorial Exhibition Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd and Roland, Browse and Delbanco, Matthew Smith 1879-1959. A Loan Exhibition Browse & Darby Ltd, Matthew Smith 1879-1959. A Centenary Exhibition Barbican Art Gallery, Matthew Smith, from the Corporation of London Collection Browse & Darby Ltd, Sir Matthew Smith C.B.E. 1879-1959 Browse & Darby Ltd, Matthew Smith 1879-1959



Browse & Darby

19 Cork Street London W1S 3LP


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