The Last Romantics

Ever since the watershed marked by the Barbican Exhibition: The Last Romantics (1989), Liss Llewellyn have continued to focus on the extraordinary flowering of talent that occurred in Britain from the decline of Pre-Raphaelitism, in the late 19th century, to the rise of "Neo-Romanticism" in the 1940s.

Often working in Tempera, this diverse group of artists had in common an interest in the British Narrative tradition. Although artists such as Burne-Jones and Stanley Spencer now loom large in the public's imagination, the majority of Last Romantics are less well known – a stable of unsung heroes and heroines who make up a compelling chapter currently absent from most accounts of 20th Century British Art.

  • Charles-Robert-Ashbee: Alphabet
    Charles Robert Ashbee: Alphabet
  • Charles-Sims: Pan,-circa-1916
    Charles Sims: Pan, circa 1916
  • Imre-Goth: At-the-Theatre,-circa-1925
    Imre Goth: At the Theatre, circa 1925
  • Margaret-Gere: Still-Life
    Margaret Gere: Still Life
  • Harry-Morley: Sea-maidens,-1930
    Harry Morley: Sea maidens, 1930
  • Henry-J-Hunt: The-Frog-Prince
    Henry J Hunt: The Frog Prince
  • Joseph-Southall: Bacchus-and-Ariadne,-circa-1912
    Joseph Southall: Bacchus and Ariadne, circa 1912

Catalogues of The Last Romantics

SANCTUARY: Artist-Gardeners 1919-39

Published: January 2020
80 pages
ISBN: 978-1-9993145-5-2

Many of the artists in this catalogue had a particularly strong attachment to gardens and gardening – taking their activities as plantsmen and plantswomen as seriously as they took their art. Charles Mahoney shared his unbridled enthusiasm for plants with Edward Bawden, Geoffrey Rhoades, John Nash and Evelyn Dunbar who swapped cuttings with each other by post. Evelyn Dunbar, along with Charles Mahoney and John Nash, produced books on the subject. And most of Harry Bush’s oeuvre evolved around painting and repainting his garden in the London suburbs of SW19.

Evelyn Dunbar (1906-1960)
The Lost Works

Published: June 2015
196 pages, colour illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-869827-93

Included in The Guardian's choice of best books of 2015.
Nominated for the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History.

The rediscovery of this important collection of works by Evelyn Dunbar is a particularly engaging story. When in September 2012 the BBC Antiques Roadshow was held at Cawdor Castle, amongst the dolls, items of furniture and bric-a-brac that were brought by the queues of people waiting in the inevitable rain was a painting by Dunbar. It was the kind of moment that the television producers must cherish. The Neo-Romantic painting entitled “Autumn and the Poet” (1960) had been brought to the roadshow by a relation of the artist and after it was appraised by Rupert Maas before the cameras it was sold and subsequently donated, through the initiative of LISS LLEWELLYN, to Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery. Ordinarily this outcome might have been the happy ending to a story, but in this case it was only the beginning. None of the works in the collection had previously been recorded, and so it is a remarkable discovery underpinning her position as one of the most significant female figurative artists working in Britain during the twentieth century.

Kenneth Rowntree
A Centenary Exhibition

Published: March 2015
128 pages, +125 colour illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-9930884-1

Nominated for the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History.

Kenneth Rowntree has always been highly regarded by those familiar with his work. The essays in this catalogue, which embrace new research and scholarship, reveal him to be an artist of great scope and variety. His early work reflects the inspiration and creative dialogue that came out of his friendship with Eric Ravilious (1903–1942) on account of whom Rowntree moved to Great Bardfield during the 1940s. During this period he was particularly preoccupied with Kenneth Clark’s Recording Britain project…. At the end of the war he joined the teaching staff at the Royal College of Art. In 1951 he was commissioned to undertake murals for the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion for the Festival of Britain. As Professor of Fine Art in Newcastle (1959–1980) he was at the epicentre of an important northern school of modernism that revolved around his friends Victor Pasmore (1908–1988) and Richard Hamilton (1922–2011). Even in retirement, his work, in its return to figuration from abstraction, displays his consistent qualities of humour and inventiveness. Rowntree’s oeuvre is both influenced by and anticipates a wide variety of artistic styles, from Ravilious to David Hockney, from the Euston Road School to the Dadaism of Kurt Schwitters. His work, however, remains unmistakably his own.

Liss Fine Art 2014

Published: October 2014
80 pages 78 illustrations

Unsung heroes aside, the greatest strength of this catalogue comes from the large number of remarkable works by women artists. This goes some way to redressing an imbalance: the story of 20th century British Art is told almost always through the work of male artists in spite of the fact that more women than men went to art school in the first half of the 20th century. The Liss Fine Art bias towards women is not intentional. Yet in the search for the best of the less familiar of 20th century British art a disproportionate number of works by women artists come to the fore. This catalogue includes outstanding works by Margaret Gere, Clare Leighton, Kathleen Guthrie, Rachel Reckitt, Barbara Jones, Mary Adshead, Evelyn Dunbar, Paule Vezelay, Muriel Pemberton and Dorothy Mahoney.

Murals & Decorative Painting 1920-1960

Published: October 2013
352 pages, 130 colour illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-908326-23

Nominated for the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History.

This book is illustrated with a series of specially commissioned photographs that record some of the least known but most remarkable mural cycles in Great Britain. In the vast majority of cases these works have previously only been reproduced in black and white if at all. … Today murals are rarely seen as the artist intended. Often they are partially obscured, especially where there has been a change of building use. Frequently works are completely covered up or painted over – examples include murals by Mary Sargent Florence, Mary Adshead, Eric Ravilious, Dora Carrington, William Roberts and Gilbert Spencer. Where murals survive they are more often than not displaced works. Historic photographs showing John Piper’s The Englishman’s Home at The Festival of Britain, in situ on the river side of the Homes and Gardens Pavilion on Belvedere Road, come as a revelation; a digital reconstruction of Frank Brangwyn’s Empire panels for The House of Lords, seen in situ as they were originally intended, gives a dramatically more favourable impression than their final installation in The Brangwyn Hall, Swansea.

Alan Sorrell - The Life and Works of an English Neo-Romantic Artist

Published: September 2013
208 pages, over 150 illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-908326-37

Chosen one of the best art books of 2013 by Brian SewellNominated for the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History.

It is particularly fitting that this book should be published to coincide with the Sir John Soane’s Museum’s aptly titled exhibition: ‘Alan Sorrell – A Life Reconstructed’. This makes it possible at last to assess the full range of Sorrell’s work and the underlying poetic vision that runs through it. Comprising a series of essays the book sets out to chart Sorrell’s life and achievements, as well as illustrating the range and diversity of his talents, most works having never previously been reproduced. … Alan Sorrell (1904-1974) attended the Royal College of Art in the mid-1920s during a period which saw the emergence of talents such as Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, John Piper, Henry Moore and Barnett Freedman. This book demonstrates that though Sorrell’s work has been less well documented his talent was comparable to that of artists more usually associated with the RCA’s formidable reputation during the interwar years.

Murals & Decorative Painting 1910-1970

Published: February 2013
128 pages 114 illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-9567139-6

The murals that were produced in this country in the twentieth century remain as one of the great inventive achievements in modern British art. Highly original in their approach to design, balancing varying degrees of modernity or tradition, they demonstrate the creative drive of their makers and contain singular expressions of the aesthetic, personal and social concerns that typify the ages from which they come. Some are celebrations of simple human pleasures, perhaps to decorate a refreshment room, an ocean liner or a dining room. Others are intended to be the highest expressions of their art, ambitious allegorical or decorative compositions that like the frescoes of the Renaissance would speak through the ages to later generations. The individuals and committees who commissioned them similarly believed they would both represent the best that Britain had to offer and mark the high accomplishment of contemporary society, elevating the public and private spaces they occupied and inspiring moral purpose.

British Paintings & Works on Paper

Published: 2005
240 pages 176 illustrations

Many of the artists featured in this catalogue — Monnington, Jas Wood, Banting, Colquhoun, Stephenson, Medley, Rowntree,Vaughan, Canney and Nockolds —moved freely between figurative and abstract art. It was part of their journey. In their ambitious exploration to find a pure art that went beyond reality, they often stopped, or hesitated, and in many cases returned to figurative painting. Artists such as Bush, Knights, Kelly and Cundall remained throughout their lives purely figurative. Their best work, however, is underpinned by an economy of design, which not only verges on the abstract, but was fed by the compositional purity developed by the pursuit of abstraction.

British Paintings & Works on Paper

Published: 2004
128 pages 89 illustrations

There is no obvious explanation for today’s neglect of artists such as Sir Frank Brangwyn, Albert de Belleroche, Clara Klinghoffer, Richard Carline, Charles Cundall and Sir Gerald Kelly.They were hugely celebrated in their day, and it is only a matter of time before the pendulum swings back. Art moves in and out of fashion: what one generation celebrates, the next forgets or rejects. The works of art do not change, nor their quality; in the life cycle of fashion it is only perceptions that alter What Monnington termed ‘works with integrity’ will always stand the test of time.

Laporte – A History in Art

Published: 2000
84 pages 73 illustrations

The Laporte Collection has attempted to accommodate the broadest range of tastes by drawing on the remarkable diversity of British art during the past 120 years. The aim of the hanging scheme has been to create a picture-rich environment which is visually uplifting, combining works which are instantly legible with works which are visually more challenging. Where possible, works have been placed to accentuate different areas of activity within the office – for instance, the board room is now dominated by Monnington’s celebration of science, a design originally conceived for the Conference Hall of Bristol Council House...

Thomas Monnington

Published: 1997
64 pages 43 illustrations

Lawrence Gowing describes Monnington as a compositional master in the tradition of the great Tuscan and Umbrian fresco painters and quotes lohn Lessore, former pupil, as saying: 'If anyone ever understood composition, he did, and so drawing, the volume and movement of which he explained geometrically, not in terms of measurement and surface realism: the appearance was always subordinate to the underlying structure ... Every pencil mark tells us a bit more about this unique character, the extraordinary originality of his mind, every period of his life – the Slade. Italy, the early portraits and murals (House of Commons. Bank of England). the ceilings. the Stations of the Cross, the abstracts, every period makes its own contribution. Only in this way can we grasp the size of his mind and how it evolved and absorbed such an astonishing range of experience, art and life, all perfectly connected and related.’

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