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A London Window (a.k.a. The Evil Spirit of War, March 1947)

$ 125,000
  • Description
    A Statement by Mark Waller on Algernon Newton's 'A London Window' (a.k.a. The Evil Spirit of War, March 1947)

    A London Window (a.k.a. The Evil Spirit of War, March 1947)
    By Algernon Newton R.A.

    Perhaps this painting, more than most of his London scenes, helps explain the peculiarity of Algernon Newton.
    It is an intensely personal view of London, Newton’s muse, after its darkest hour. Nicholas Usherwood catalogued it at the Royal Academy show of 1980 where it was exhibited (cat no.49), having in his words, “a quirkiness of character as distinctive as anything he ever produced”. However, during the author’s time in America and the passing of many years, a deeper understanding of this painting has come to light.

    Algernon Newton, a successful and revered British artist by the 1930s, was invited to America by wealthy Anglo-American patrons, the Hesketh’s, for a house portrait in Texas. The Hesketh’s, who shared Newton’s Christian pacifist ideals, left the idyllic English countryside to join a growing number of artistically minded Americans in the Southwest. Newton arrived in the states in 1937, during the time of the gathering clouds of German re-armament, for an extended visit. Given the small nature of the artistic community in America at that locale at the time, the Hesketh’s would have likely known notables such as Mabel Dodge Luhan, Georgia O’Keeffe and others and presumably made those introductions to Newton. It is mentioned in an unpublished manuscript by Newton* that he was “afforded excellent introductions” whilst in the Southwest, and his painting of the San Xavier Mission in Arizona exists from this sojourn. Taos, New Mexico was a bustling artistic center at that time.

    O’Keefe’s painting of “Lake George Window” (MOMA) of 1929 and the 1932 “White Barn II” (Metropolitan Museum of Art) and her numerous later door series paintings also bear remarkable similarity of void space in composition and coloration. These works place the ruggedly individualistic O’Keeffe close to the American regionalists and precisionists, Davis, Demuth and Sheeler. A highlight of that year in American art circles was that Matisse was the judge of the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburg, PA, where it is believed that Newton visited with his clients. There cannot be any doubt or a coincidence that Matisse’s 1914 “A Window in Collioure” must have been an influence directly or indirectly to Newton and O’Keeffe with regard to composition. This is an intriguing connection to the American Modernists, but requires considerable further research. However, the similarities are undeniable. Hopefully the illustration of this painting will produce further scholarly discourse on the connections.

    Upon Newton’s return to England in 1938 he was soon to face the full horror of London enduring the Blitz, and the destruction of so many of his serene surrealist townscapes. This painting appears to be a haunting reflection of the destruction caused by war, and his strongest personal comment on his deep personal belief of pacifism, on which he exceptionally wrote and published a book. In this he wrote, "I had been a pacifist since the last war, and had come to regard war as mass murder, and the reversing of God's law of love and the teaching of Christ". [1]
    Soon after his return he left London, and ensconced himself in Beck Hole in the rural North of England for the rest of the war, only returning to Notting Hill Gate, London after the end of the hostilities in 1947, the year of this painting. Re-acquainting himself with the sight of shattered London must have been difficult for him to bear, however it is recorded that he had great energy and optimism upon his return. The painting shows this, as well as the scars of war, the bent and flaking façade, with its solidity. It is optimistic (down yet not out), stoic and resolutely steadfast despite the times, as London and Londoners were and continue to be. In its characteristic stillness, it is a little unsettling, the slight snow giving even a chilling effect. The use of the title (Ove Day and Sons) under the black window is a haunting reminder and particularly well chosen. One’s mind fills in the blank to produce (L)ove Day and Sons. Perhaps a memory of what was and what will be.

    In summary, this is not a painting of the serene surreal landscapes and townscapes that Newton was justly famous for. It is a strong personal statement and an emotional echo and connects him to the avant-garde art of the day in an intensely personal way, marking him as a Modernist to Matisse’s and O’Keefe’s progression, makes this extraordinary image perhaps one of the strongest and most intriguing of his oeuvre.

    [1] Tate Archive.

    Additional Information:
    Its inclusion in the R.A. show organized by Sheffield City Art Galleries was recorded as being either loaned or included by Mark Jones, who was to become an Art Historian and Museum Director of considerable note as the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum for 10 years, amongst other important roles. He received his knighthood in 2010.
    This painting shares a similar gallery provenance with the current highest auction result for Newton’s work, that of Gallery ’25 of Belgravia S.W.1, at the time an enthusiastic supporter of Algernon Newton’s art.

    The Frame:
    The remarkable artist frame (circa 1981) was commissioned by Gallery ’25 for the painting from a talented artisan framer named Barry House.
    Framed Dimensions;- 37'x 42 'inches

    Exhibited:
    Royal Academy, 1947, no. 617.
    Leicester Galleries, exhibition 958, 'Paintings of London by Algernon Newton', April 1951.
    No.13, as 'A London Window'.
    Royal Academy, Sheffield and Plymouth, 'Algernon Newton', 1980, catalogue by Nicholas Usherwood,
    cat. no. 49, Owner, Mark Jones.

    Provenance:

    With (Sir) Mark Ellis Powell Jones (Former Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum)
    With Gallery ’25, London, 1982, where acquired by the author and vendor.

    Condition:
    The painting is in perfect condition, without restoration. It does not have any crack-lure and has a beautiful textured surface. A 5x4 color transparency taken around 1996 with color separation alongside is available.
    The canvas is stamped, Windsor and Newton.

    I am grateful to Sir Mark Jones for his assistance in the cataloguing of this work.

    "It was his achievement to have painted his own, troubled sense of the history of his times, while seeming to do something far more innocuous.”
    -Andrew Graham Dixon
  • More Information
    Documentation: Ample Provenance
    Notes: See Description
    Origin: England
    Period: 1920-1949
    Materials: Oil on Canvas.
    Condition: Excellent. Signed with monogram and dated 47
    Creation Date: 1947
    Styles / Movements: Modernism, Post War, Surrealism
    Book References: *My thoughts on Art and Life by Algernon Newton. Unpublished manuscript. Copy held at the Tate Gallery (archives department). See; -Algernon Newton R.A. Nicholas Underwood, The Arts Council of Great Britain.1980 Print.
    Catalog References: Newton, Algernon, R.A. 1880-1968. Underwood, Nicholas. Sheffield City Art Galleries. Graves Art Gallery (Sheffield, England) Royal Academy of Arts (Great Britain) The Arts Council of Great Britain.1980 Print.
    Article References: The Peculiarity of Algernon Newton R.A. (1880-1968) Daniel Katz Ltd Publisher Daniel Katz Gallery, The Colt press 2012 ISBN 0956833632, 9780956833631
    News references: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-reviews/9704301/The-Peculiarity-of-Algernon-Newton-Daniel-Katz-Gallery-London-review.html
    Dealer Reference #: IC
    Incollect Reference #: 194693
  • Dimensions
    W. 25 in; H. 30 in;
    W. 63.5 cm; H. 76.2 cm;
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