THE EUSTON ROAD SCHOOL: A Study in Objective Painting by Bruce Laughton

THE EUSTON ROAD SCHOOL: A Study in Objective Painting

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A somewhat plodding account of the brief flowering of what the publisher in a burst of hopeful hyperbole describes as ""the last bohemia in Britain's Bloomsbury."" Readers expecting tales of bourgeois-baiting in the tradition of such truly bohemian British artists as Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Walter Sickert and Augustus John are in for a sharp disappointment. The founders of the Euston Road School--Victor Pasmore, William Coldstream and Claude Rogers--prove to be, in Laughton's telling, a pallid bunch. More importantly, from the evidence of the 17 color and 218 black-and-white reproductions included here, their paintings and those of their handful of followers are equally uncontroversial--competently composed and executed portraits, landscapes and still lifes in the realist mode. Eschewing the abstractionist and surrealist credos that dominated British art in the mid-1930's, Pasmore, Coldstream and Rogers formulated an artistic theory they dubbed ""objective realism,"" which drew inspiration from the works of CÉzanne and Degas. The three main tenets of their school were (1) precise measurement in transcribing the three-dimensional subject to the two-dimensional canvas; (2) limitation of the range of brushstrokes employed, and (3) strict adherence to external reality in the choice of subject matter. Having established an art school on London's Euston Road, the trio of painters was soon joined by Graham Bell, whose militant leftist beliefs must at least have added a bit of excitement to the ordinarily stodgy atmosphere. Among the students who enrolled in the early days were the American Kenneth Ross; Jack Shadbolt, today a Canadian abstract expressionist; and even Augustus John's daughter Vivien; and Angelica Bell, the child of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. It is perhaps indicative that none of these students perpetuated the artistic goals of their early mentors. The outbreak of WW II spelled the end, to all intents and purposes, of the group. In sum, an overextended analysis of an extremely minor manifestation of antimodernist theory among the English derriere-garde. Possibly of interest to dedicated art historians with a penchant for the obscure.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
Publisher: Scolar--dist. by Gower (Old Post Rd., Brookfield, VT 05036)