Frances Jayne Newman fine art

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Scene Unseen II 9th May - 1st July 2008

The Artist in Britain and the Workplace (continued from previous page)

     The Librarian Pen and ink on paper 2008 15cm x 21cm

During the inter-war period a number of the great industrial companies for which Britain was so famous at the time began commissioning artists to portray what went on in their works and plants. A different kind of institutional influence was to be exerted in the East London Group of artists, founded by John Cooper, a college teacher, which provoked talents such as Elwyn Hawthorn and Walter Steggles during the 1930s into recognizing that the mundane, perhaps nondescript, industrial buildings of the area could – through the artist’s vision – be transformed into compelling atmospheric studies.

In more recent times, there has emerged what could be described as a Black Country school, of which Arthur Lockwood is arguably the leading proponent. For countless years Lockwood has attempted to record the dying industries of his region – before the bulldozers moved in to flatten his beloved workshops and industrial plants. He is symptomatic of a deep nostalgic mood which partly accounts for the great popularity of the canvases of northern mill towns by L S Lowry, or the depictions of Welsh mining villages by Josef Herman. With the finest artists in the genre we encounter rather more than an accurate depiction or impression of the facts of industrial life. They suggest the existence of community – of the making of a good life – amidst the often squalid or depressing features of the landscape.

Ron Heisler
February 2008 © Ron Heisler

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Front cover, Back cover

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