Guest blog by Dr Andrew Jackson from Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln. Andrew is a cultural historian and geographer, and Devonian. Interests include the art and literature of the early twentieth century, and of the countryside and rural landscapes in particular – in Devon, Lincolnshire, and elsewhere.
At present, and through until September of 2022, a painting of a Devon landscape can be seen hanging on display in the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. It is ‘A Devonshire Valley, No. 2’ (c. 1913), by the artist Robert Polhill Bevan (1865-1925). Its companion piece, ‘A Devonshire Valley, No. 1’ (also c. 1913), is held within the collections of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery.
A Close Comparison
The two works are nearly identical in terms of the prospect being portrayed by Bevan, and the composition being framed. Closer examination side by side, or more probing scientific analysis, might reveal further differences, but, on first glance certainly, Brighton’s ‘No. 2’ does appear to be a lighter-of-touch preparatory study for Exeter’s ‘No. 1’. The latter is, most evidently, more developed, richer, and more ‘finished’ in terms of its use of paint and colour. Otherwise, the ‘No. 1’ does not indicate a great departure from the ‘No. 2’, either in terms of the arrangement of the landscape, or perhaps what the artist might have been intending by way of the picture’s potential interpretation by viewers.
Robert Bevan and Devon
The Hove-born Bevan would develop a strong relationship with Devon and the landscapes of the Blackdown Hills. He would settle there to work for much of his later years, with his wife and fellow artist, Stanislowa de Karlowska. Bevan would also invite other former members of the Camden Town Group to stay with him and paint local scenes, including [Spencer] Gore and [Charles] Ginner.
The Camden Town Artists
The Camden Town Group was established in London in 1911 by Gore, as well as Walter Sickert and Harold Gilman. Its membership would also come to include Ginner as well as Bevan. These artists depicted the townscapes and urban life of the capital, but also developed links with Brighton and Hove, portraying the resort, and exhibiting in its gallery. The Group’s work was heavily influenced by French impressionist and post-impressionist art.
RAMM has several works by this group of artists in the fine art collection, including Walter Sickert, Charles Ginner and Harold Gilman.
References and Links
Art UK, ‘Robert Polhill Bevan, 1865-1925’.
Art UK, ‘Charles Ginner, 1868-1952’.
Barden, Valerie, ‘The Camden Town Group – The Devon Connection’, Cullompton: Report from the Literature & Art Section, Devonshire Association, online, 7 August, 2017.
Bevan, Robert Alexander, Robert Bevan, 1865-1925: A Memoir By His Son, London: Studio Vista, 1965.
Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, What Makes a View?, Hemyock: Blackdown Hills AONB Partnership/Fiona Fyfe Associates.
Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, ‘London’s Camden Town Group visits Brighton and Eastbourne’, blog, 8 October, 2021.
Emeny, Richard, A Fragile Beauty: The Camden Town Group in the Blackdown Hills, 1909-1925, West Quantoxhead: The Court Gallery.
Jackson, Andrew, ‘How green is my county? Robert Bevan’s paintings of Devon’, research blog, The Box, Art gallery and Museum, Plymouth, 23 January, 2022.
Moorby, Nicola, ‘The Camden Town Group in context: Robert Bevan, 1865-1925’, online research publication, London: Tate Gallery, November 2003.
RAMM, ‘Exeter’s Fine Art, 6 April to 24 November 2013’, blog, April 2013.
Stenlake, Frances, Robert Bevan: From Gauguin to Camden Town, London: Unicorn Press, 2008.
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