A little like picking an irritating and ever present scab I decided to remind myself of how bad it can all be by looking again at a selection of late paintings by Howard Hodgin.
Works like these, which do nothing to enhance a painter's reputation always put me in mind of Salvador Dali putting his signature to blank pieces of paper at his dealers behest. However incautious clicking took me to a more rewarding place, instead of finding Howard I discovered his cousin Eliot.
Eliot's immaculate paintings have lost much of their impact for us, images such as these have proliferated on greeting cards, packaging and hundreds of other consumables, what self respecting book shop doesn't have racks of these tasteful and twee cards for the discerning shopper. In the 1930's Eliot was a successful established artist, known for still lives, portraits and landscapes. His immaculate, wonderfully observed and technically superb tempera paintings were essential decor for smart, fashionable middle class homes. One suspects that the cool, handsome and suave artist was also de rigueur in their drawing rooms.
During his successful career he turned down the invitation to become an Academician but exhibited around 113 paintings at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions. During World War II he worked for the Ministry of Information producing wonderful paintings of London bomb sites, with particular emphasis on the plants growing through the devastation. They call to mind with their detailed observation some of Freud's early work. The paintings resonate with Noel Cowards famous war time song 'London Pride'.
I find the still lives amazing but ultimately sterile but one is reminded of the subtle placements and arrangements of Morandi and they bring to mind some of the groupings in the small works of Nicholson. The cityscapes I love, hope within the devastation, but then I'm also a sucker for a smart trilby.
AGED AND AWKWARD