Galleries - October 2011

John Atkinson Grimshaw It took many years for Atkinson Grimshaw to develop into the quintessential painter of moonlit harbours ( Home Again ) and tree- lined twilight lanes ( Autumn Gold ) that have come to make his name so instantly recognisable. Thus, in two excellent shows, at Richard Green and the Guildhall Art Gallery , mounted to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the birth of this under-rated artist, we see him first of all painting Ruskin-inspired or Tissot-influenced ladies in exotic Victorian interiors. Then, gradually, he began to find his own voice. Roundhay Lake reveals two lonely figures leaning against a fence contemplating a misty lake; at the same time he also set his own seal on the urban scene with paintings of busy cities at night with shop lamps reflected on wet cobblestones ( Liverpool) or forests of masts in moon- drenched harbours ( Whitby ). Grimshaw’s luminous myster- ious paintings transcended the squalor, disease and suffering pre- valent in the big cities of his times. His haunting images ( Knostrop Cut, Leeds Sunday Night ), as Alex ander Robertson notes, were in tune with the romantic themes of cont- emporary poets such as Tennyson, Longfellow, and Shelley. Rosemary Clunie Georges Bernède This show of Frenchman Georges Bernède’s abstract paintings really does represent something of a coup for Whitford Fine Art. Bernède, whose work is best described as Lyrical Abstraction, has been – outside of France – a little known artist but one who, despite this, is a post-war painter of real historical importance. However it is only now, with the works finally being seen here in the UK, effectively for the first time (and at a fraction of the price of other, comparable, modern French masters) that we can appreciate this – which makes this show an absolute must. Bernède was born in Monségur, near Bordeaux, in 1926, and early in his artistic career developed a figurative expressionist style, with accents of strong Fauvist colour. It was, though, with gestural mono- chrome abstracts, like Compo- sition 86 – 16 (1986), which bring to mind the work of the American Franz Kline, that he was to make his real mark. And now with this exhibition we have, at last, enough works of sufficiently high quality to enable us to place Bernède alongside rather better-known French artists who have worked in a similar vein, for example Hartung and Soulages. Lyrical Abstraction, a seminal artistic movement in France since 1951 has, in a sense, been reborn in this showing of a now more widely celebrated, and very talented, artist. Clive Joinson Cyril Mann In the late 1940s, Cyril Mann (1911-1980) painted brilliantly expressionistic pictures of bleak, bomb-ravaged, austerity-ridden post-war London – red pillar boxes and red buses providing the few notable high colour notes in a dark, attenuated palette, albeit one infused with (and para- doxically transfigured by) vision- ary solar light, inspired partly by Tintoretto, Turner and van Gogh. An exhibition at London’s Piano Nobile (5 October to 5 November) marks the centenary of Mann’s birth, including masterpieces such as Leaping Light (c.1948) in which sunlight dynamically highlights a mundane street scene’s jagged, vertiginous edges. Mann talked about how sunlight ‘chiselled through a window-frame’ or ‘spla- shed off cars in the street’. The painting, Tubby Isaac’s Shellfish Stall (c.1950) evokes quotidian East End night-time details and characters with film noir -like acuity. Piano Nobile has published a monograph exploring Mann’s painting Sunday Morning, St Paul’s (c.1948), with a perceptive essay by Mark Hudson. In this panor- amic scene, a flattened bombsite (now where the Barbican lies) offers a silhouetted view of St Paul’s Cathedral, as hunched figures in raincoats and trilbies scurry along in the murky, smoggy air which radiates the detonating sun’s amber beatific glow above an archetypal London cityscape. Philip Vann Images fromLeft: A tkinsonGrimshaw ‘AutumnGold’ atRichardGreen.GeorgesBernède‘Composition 86-16’,1986,atWhitfordFineArt.Cyril Mann,‘Leaping Light’1948,atPianoNobile TRIPLEVISION 11. GALLERIES OCTOBER 11