25 May 2011

Alfred Wallis at Compton Verney

Compton Verney in Warwickshire is a handsomely set Georgian mansion which has been transformed into an art gallery with the support of the Peter Moores Foundation. As well as its permanent collections, it hosts temporary exhibitions. Currently, but only to 6 June, works by Alfred Wallis and Ben Nicholson are on display, exploring “Wallis’ unique vision and his influence on Nicholson’s work, focusing on paintings and drawings by the two artists dating from the late 1920s to the 1940s.”
It is 90 years since Wallis was first exhibited in London, following his discovery as a primitive painter in St Ives (Cornwall, in SW England) by established artists in the late 1920s. Most of the exhibits at Compton Verney are of Wallis’ work, many from the extensive collection at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge.  The three-room exhibition makes a fair case for Wallis’ influence on Nicholson, although there were clearly many others, including major artists such as Mondrian and Picasso and movements such as cubism.

With the recent opening of The Hepworth Wakefield, Barbara Hepworth’s life and work is receiving more attention than in previous years. It is helpful by way of background to some of the Compton Verney exhibits to know that Nicholson (1894-1982) married and divorced three times:
1920-1938 Winifred Roberts (three children)
1938-1951 Barbara Hepworth (triplets)
1957-1977 Felicitas Vogler

Compton Verney has in the past put on some first class exhibitions, for example Van Gogh and Britain: Pioneer Collectors in 2006 and The Naked Portrait in 2007. However, some potential visitors to their next major exhibition, Stanley Spencer and the English Garden, may well be deterred by the pricing. Because this show will coincide with the “peak rate” period, and because exhibition admission is only available bundled with admission to the grounds and permanent collections, the Adult ticket will cost £13.20 (there are concessions). This seems steep for its likely scale, particularly for anyone contemplating a second visit to Compton Verney within a few months, and who has already had an opportunity to admire the restored ice house.
Restored ice house at Compton Verney, Warwickshire

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