“New Radicals: from Sickert to Freud” opens at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK





Fifty paintings spanning the first 50 years of the 20th century, and all taken from the Walker Art Gallery’s permanent collection, are on show at the William Brown Street venue until 20 September 2009.

“New Radicals: from Sickert to Freud” explores the creative development of British Art from 1900 to the post war era. Divided into four sections (Groups and Gatherings, Modernists, A Sense of Place and Independent Spirit), the free exhibition highlights some of the key figures and artists’ groups that flourished, such as the New English Art Club and the Camden Town group, but also examines the work of a variety of distinct and individual artists whose work stood apart from their contemporaries including Lucian Freud, Walter Sickert and L S Lowry.

The paintings by Messrs Freud (“Interior at Paddington”, 1950-51) and Sickert (“The Bathers, Dieppe”, 1902), ironically enough, are disappointing and arguably the weakest on display. That is not to say the duo are not worthy of an exhibition named after them, however. Indeed their reputations are well deserved. Furthermore “The Gallery of the Old Bedford” (1894) and “Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom” (1906) are enough to ensure Sickert’s place among the great and the good in the art world. Yet their absence remains conspicuous despite the fact that the first could not be included for chronological reasons while the second is not even in the Walker’s hands.

A reputation not so well deserved is L S Lowry’s, however, whose “The Fever Van” (1935) was amateurish then and remains so now. Yet the Manchester-born artist (1887-1976) has undergone something of a renaissance and is now considered hot property. In 2007, “Good Friday, Daisy Nook” sold at Christie’s in London for £3.7m. A collection of his works raised over £1.2m for charity a year later while more recently, in July 2009, his painting of the village that inspired Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” is expected to sell for £180,000.

The same cannot be said for Liverpool-born artist, Albert Richards (1919-1945), regrettably. Richards became an official war artist in the Second World War, producing some exceptional oil and watercolour works that belied his age. He died in 1945 – at just 25 he was the youngest of the British War Artists to be killed in action. And yet his “Seacombe Ferry in Wartime” (1941) was rejected by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee and remains relatively unknown to this day. Rest assured, his is not the only gem on display. Cecilia Legge’s “Wembley” (1926) brilliantly captures the closing ceremony of the British Empire Exhibition held at Wembley Stadium between April 1924 and October 1925. And Thomas Cantrell Dugdale’s “Underground” (1932) is another wonderful find. The attention to detail in the passenger’s costumes is utterly stunning.

Further events:

• Artist in Focus: Walter Sickert
1 August and 12 September
“Bathers, Dieppe and Fancy Dress – Miss Beerbohm” act as a starting point to discuss the artist
• Exploring the New Radicals
24 August
Explore the impact of modernism in British art through lectures, discussion and interactive workshops
• Urban Visions in Modern British Art
1 September
This lecture focuses on urban existence and social change as reflected in the art of “New Radicals: Sickert to Freud”

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