Simmonds exhibition near Petworth


The latest exhibition at The Moncrieff-Bray Gallery reassesses the work of modern British artist Stanley Simmonds (1917-2006).

Paintings from his Cornish studio will be exhibited at the gallery at Egdean, near Petworth, from November 7-15, daily 11-4pm and from November 16-21, by appointment

Arts writer Elspeth Moncrieff, who set up the Moncrieff-Bray Gallery in 2005, said Simmonds was widely acclaimed in his lifetime: “He regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy, with the London Group and was included in a group exhibition at the Whtechapel Art Galllery. He showed alongside distinguished artists such as John Piper, John Bratby, Ivon Hitchens and Keith Vaughan.

“The collection comes directly from his Cornish studio near Launceston where Stanley spent the last 25 years of his life, moving to be close to his lifelong friend, the poet Charles Causley.Having attended Birmingham College of Art, Stan saw war time service in the Royal Navy, before resuming his studies at the Royal College of Art in 1946. His paintings at this time were beautifully executed tonal studies of nudes, still-lives and rural subjects. The stunning portrait of his wife Cynthia Kathleeen King, also a painter, whom he married in c1950, dates from this period.

“Settling into married life in London, in a roomy flat at 22 Redcliffe Square, SW10, Stanley embarked on a remarkable series of paintings of Billingsgate Market. Rising early in the mornings, he executed rapid pencil sketches of the porters and carters, unloading the heavy boxes of fish. These form a unique historical record and the basis for the paintings such as Billingsgate, Porters where he moves towards an increasingly-abstract style, exploring blocks of colour and tonal values. The paintings are atmospheric with a strong underlying architectural element to them, and the exhibition includes a group of the Billingsgate paintings.

“From the late 1950s to the 1970s, Stanley’s career flourished. Like many modern British artists of his generation, he was becoming increasingly attracted to abstraction. This took many forms, some of the canvases dissolve in a luminous atmospheric interpretation of the landscape; others are much more tightly constructed with strong cubist shapes, bold colours and incorporate figurative elements within them. He was drawing on a wide range of contemporary influences. There are elements of the neo-romantics like Keith Vaughan, Michael Ayrton and Graham Sutherland – and from further afield Mark Rothko and the Colour Field artists. In the most successful of them, Stanley forged a vision and style uniquely his own combining abstraction and figuration.

“All the while he was painting and exhibiting, he was for nearly 30 years the much-respected art teacher at Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School, where his most famous pupil was the illustrator Quentin Blake. From 1958 to 1962 he had a series of successful exhibitions at the innovative Bear Lane Gallery in Oxford. Following his retirement and move to Devon in the late 1970s, he had the time and freedom to experiment in many directions and this late period saw a return to more figurative work. He was a prodigious artist working in his studio in a converted chapel in South Petherwin, near Launceston. He continued to exhibit successfully.”

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