A review of Neo-Romantic Art: the McDowall Collection by Trina Hart
The Neo-Romantic enjoyed a relatively short period in history, really showing up from about 1935 to 1955. It brought forward some exciting emerging artists who had a lot to say, and were not afraid to engage in experimental and abstract dimensions, challenging the viewer to engage with what was being expressed in the painting. This was one of those times in history when art was free to unashamedly express a display of emotions which were finally let loose after years of war and political turmoil had suppressed an entire generation. During the Second World War many of the main galleries closed their doors, which meant post war art was in plentiful supply, and in great demand. Neo-Romantic art was no exception.
The exhibition at St Barbe is an impressive collection of some of the greatest artists of the period, notably Henry Moore, John Bolam, Robert Colquhoun, Clifford Fishwick, Rigby Graham, Robert MacBryde, Paul Nash and John Piper to name but a few, and the list goes on. What becomes clear throughout the exhibition is Nicolas McDowall's keen eye for exceptional pieces, and his ability to curate a collection that tells a story across the period in such a sensitive and graphic way. His love of print is apparent, and he clearly had wonderful relationships with the artists he represented in his print works.
My favourite of the exhibition is probably the Henry Moore drawing of the Elephant Skull, followed closely by Clive Hicks-Jenkin's bizarre and fantastical depiction of a Hansel and Gretel scene, that really disturbs and thrills in equal measure.
Well worth the visit, and I shall most definitely visit again before the exhibition ends, if only to have another look at the William Blake print, which was an unexpected delight.
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Image: Rigby Graham, Figures with Boat, Brittany | Courtesy of Goldmark Gallery