Galleries - February 2015

44 GALLERIES FEBRUARY 2015 Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War by Simon Martin. 160pp, 144 ills, Lund Humphries pbk, £24.95 A well researched, written and illustrated account by its curator to accompany the exhibition at Pallant House , Chichester, until February 15, which then moves on to the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, from March 7 to June 7. The Spanish Civil War can be seen as one of the great polarising social and political events of the 20th century. Much has been written about the response of British writers such as Auden and Orwell to what Stephen Spender dubbed ‘The Poets’ War’, but the contribution of visual artists has been almost entirely overlooked: ‘Conscience and Conflict’ helps to rectify this. It examines work by the well known – Henry Moore, Wyndham Lewis, Edward Burra, Frank Brangwyn, S.W. Hayter and John Armstrong (whose evocative The Empty Street appears on the cover) – but also that of the less celebrated. Amongst these are Felicia Browne, a Slade graduate killed in action as a militia volunteer in 1936 and Clive Branson, a promising figurative painter who was captured by the Nationalists whilst serving in the International Brigades and who was later k.i.a. with the British army in Burma during World War Two. Then there was sculptor Jason Gurney, another member of the International Brigades, whose career was also cut short when he lost two fingers to a sniper’s bullet – and as he was shielding his face with his hand whilst peering through a loophole, he was lucky to survive. He’d worked with Frank Dobson but “I honestly don’t know how good a sculptor I was.” His memoir Crusade in Spain, written in the 1970s, reflects his disillusionment (and that of many who idealistically volunteered in the early days) with the growing grip of the authoritarian left on the Republican side as the war progressed. Of course, most of the artists’ involvement was not so direct and consisted of a flurry of work and other artistic activism – predominantly in support of the ultimately doomed Republican cause. However, it should not be forgotten that a number of those who responded to the war, notably Burra and Lewis, were not men of the left and their stance vis a vis the combatants was ambivalent at the least. Some, such as Russell Flint and Francis Rose were supportive of Franco’s Nationalists, as the latter’s satirical gouache The Reds are Really Not Bad Sorts demonstrates. Simon Martin covers this and much more – including responses from contemporary artists such as Terry Frost and R.B. Kitaj – and there’s a Foreword by leading historian Paul Preston. Highly recommended for all those interested in the artistic and indeed wider historical aspects of this seminal conflict. AA Patrick George by Andrew Lambirth. 176pp, fully illustrated, Sansom and Co hbk, £30 Patrick George was one of the marvellous teachers, like Coldstream, Uglow, Patrick Symons and others, steeped in the lore of the Euston Road school, who taught generations of art students during what we must now view as a halcyon time for art schools. However, I remember that Carel Weight once remarked in a letter to me that “there is no real personal quality in any of the work of the school.” Herein lies a clue as to why Patrick George still remains a painter’s painter, and why a book such as this is overdue. Andrew Lambirth has a talent for engaging the reader with anecdotes, many from former students, whilst also commenting clearly upon the work. All this from an author equally at ease with the explosive Roger Hilton or the fashionable L.S.Lowry, as with the quiet, undemonstrative, hugely intelligent Patrick George. Chris Insoll BOOK reviews