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.

  • Winifred-Knights: Early-compositional-study-for-The-Deluge
    Winifred Knights: Early compositional study for The Deluge
  • Gilbert-Spencer: On-Bakewell-Bridge,-1950s
    Gilbert Spencer: On Bakewell Bridge, 1950s
  • Frederick-Carter: The-Balance,-c.1918
    Frederick Carter: The Balance, c.1918
  • Maurice-de-Sausmarez: Allegory,-1938
    Maurice de Sausmarez: Allegory, 1938
  • Frederick-William-George: Head-of-a-girl,-cira-1910
    Frederick William George: Head of a girl, cira 1910
  • Winifred-Knights: Self-portrait,-1920
    Winifred Knights: Self-portrait, 1920
  • John-McKenzie: The-Window-Cleaner,-circa-1930
    John McKenzie: The Window Cleaner, circa 1930

Catalogues including works by the Last Romantics

Women Only – Works on Paper

Published: March 2021
112 pages
ISBN: 978-1-9993145-7-6

Over the past years, I and my colleagues in the art team have made a conscious attempt to address the omissions and erasures that are inherent in public art collections like that of the Laing Art Gallery and indeed within the canon of British art itself. With a particular focus on gender, this has manifested itself in a series of exhibitions, redisplays of the permanent collection and a refocusing of our acquisitions policy. It is therefore opportune that we are able to work in partnership with Liss Llewellyn on WOW: Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn have long made it their mission to encourage the reappraisal of some of the less well-known figures of 20th-century art – who more often than not are women. In particular, their impressive publications and exhibitions have brought many women artists more mainstream attention. Liss Llewellyn have drawn together over fifty works on paper from private collections. The selection includes a wide variety of works in a range of styles and of out- standing quality. The artists Vanessa Bell, Hilda Carline, Ithell Colquhoun, Winifred Knights and Paule Vézelay are all represented, as well as other accomplished but less well-known artists. WOW will be shown concurrently with Challenging Convention which focuses on the work of Laura Knight, Gwen John, Vanessa Bell and Dod Procter.

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.

Art, Faith & Modernity
edited by Sacha Llewellyn and Paul Liss

Published: June 2019
224 pages
ISBN: 978-1-9993145-0-7

Nominated for the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History

No account of 20th Century British art can overlook the numerous works of the period that were essentially “religious” in their content. Art, Faith & Modernity examines this question in Paul Liss‘ and Alan Powers’ essays and demonstrates the wide range of expression in more than 175 colour reproductions.

Anchored by Alan Power’s defining essay, Art Faith and Modernity presents a poignant argument – both visual and cerebral – for a reassessment of the important place that religious art continued to occupy in 20th century Britain. Art, Faith & Modernity is part of Liss Llewellyn’s on-going programme of exhibitions, produced in partnership with museums and cultural institutions, which seeks to reappraise some of the unsung heroines and and heroes of Modern British art.

Fifty Works by Fifty British Women Artists 1900 - 1950
Edited by Sacha Llewellyn

Published: November 2018
200 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9930884-8

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

Ever since Linda Nochlin asked in 1971, ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’, art history has been probing the female gaze. Through scholarship and exhibitions, readings have been put in place to counter prevailing assumptions that artistic creativity is primarily a masculine affair. 50/50 functions as a corrective to the exclusion of women from the ‘master’ narratives of art. It introduces fifty artworks by known and lesser-known women – outstanding works that speak out.

Fifty commentaries by fifty different writers bring out each artwork’s unique story – sometimes from an objective art historical perspective and sometimes from an entirely personal point of view – thereby creating a rich and colourful diorama. This exhibition does not, however, attempt to present a survey or to address all the arguments around the history of women and art. Anthologies are of necessity incomplete, and many remarkable imaginations are not here represented.

Women artists have been set apart from male artists not only to their own disadvantage but also to the detriment of British art. While there were some improvements for women to access an artistic career in the twentieth century in terms of patronage, economics and critical attention – all the things that confer professional status – women had the least of everything. By showcasing just a few of the remarkable works produced, this exhibition draws attention to the fact that a vision of British twentieth century art closer to a 50/50 balance would not only provide a truer account, but also a more vivid and meaningful narrative.

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 Sewell Nominated 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.

John Mckenzie

Published: August 2012
32 pages 29 illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-9567139-5

It is rare for a creative artist to work in the privacy of his garden shed, in a challenging medium, and almost entirely for his own pleasure, but such a one was the slate-carver, John McKenzie. His day job was working as a steward in the Petty Officers’ Mess aboard H.M.S. Condor, the Fleet Air Arm Training School at Arbroath, Angus, on the east coast of Scotland…. It has been said that sculptors can be divided into two categories - whittlers and modellers. McKenzie definitely falls into the former, as he was clearly never happier than with a knife or some other cutting or engraving tool in his hand; rejecting wood as too soft, perhaps too feminine, he sought for something more challenging and settled on Welsh slate, a hard and obdurate material. The small body of work he produced, probably not more than a hundred and fifty pieces in total, form a unique record of the dreams as well as the everyday genteel world of this working-class Phidias from Glasgow who, after his father’s death, moved to Arbroath with his mother, living with her for the remainder of her life.

Victor Moody

Published: August 2012
48 pages 50 illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-9567139-4

Victor Hume Moody created timeless images of an Arcadian idyll at a time when most artists had turned their backs on the classical tradition. The centuries old heritage of Western art was too inspiring and too valuable for him to simply abandon. Over a working life of nearly 70 years he tirelessly researched and worked to revive traditional painting techniques. At the same time he created a unique fusion of classical figure composition and the pastoral English landscape…. Very little survives of Victor Moody’s thoughts on art and he published nothing to explain the evolution of his distinctive and idiosyncratic style of painting. His daughter Catherine Moody, who took over from him as Head of Malvern School of Art, felt that he had expressed “... all that he wished to convey through his brush and not with the supplement of verbal statement.”

Stanley Lewis

Published: 2010
176 pages +140 illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-9930884-3

Stanley Lewis (1905-2009) was reluctant to sell his art during his life-time. He kept all his major works. He later gave some to museums. He turned down offers from galleries, preferring to work without constraints, choosing to eam a much needed regular income through teaching (over 10 years at Newport School of Art and 22 years as Principal of Carmarthen School of Art). His work is highly distinctive and he remained faithful throughout his life to a graphic and stylised manner developed early on in his career. Perhaps the most enduring aspect of his legacy is the remarkable cycle of paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy celebrating Welsh subjects: The Welsh Dresser, The Welsh Mole Catcher and The Welsh Farmer. Stanley also strongly identified with the land: on the one hand his calling to art was a vocation; on the other his approach was disarmingly unpretentious.

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.

Robert Austin

Published: 2002
48 pages +65 illustrations

Printmaker and draughtsman, Robert Austin was born in Leicester. He studied at the School of Art there and at the Royal College of Art, 1914-16 and 1919-22, winning the Rome Scholarship for engraving in the latter year. He taught engraving at the Royal College of Art, 1927-44, becoming Professor in the Department of Graphic Design, 1948-55. He showed with RWS, of which he was a member and President; RE, of which he was a member; and the RA, to which he was elected in 1949. Austin was a meticulous craftsman-engraver and a vigorous draughtsman, as his series of drawings of Women's Auxiliary Air Force and ballooning activities done during World War II shows. The Tate Gallery holds his work.

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.’

Winifred Knights

Published: 1995
60 pages 49 illustrations

Winifred Knights exhibited her work with reluctance, and a retrospective exhibition of her major paintings would total seven in number. She worked inordinately slowly, with consummate care: nothing in her work was left to chance, everything was prepared and thought out. Her reluctance to exhibit was not related to strong self-criticism, indeed the opposite would be true: her son John remembers her total confidence in her work. She attended the Slade School of Art, London, from October 1915 to July 197, when she won the Second Prize for Figure Drawing. During this period she began to be recognised as an outstanding draughtswoman. In 1920 became the first woman to win the prestigious Prix de Rome.

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