Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Stanley Lewis (1905 - 2009)   BIOGRAPHY

Hyde Park in Summer 1931
Framed (ref: 1507)
Oil on canvas, 48 x 86 3/4 in. (122 x 220.2 cm.)


Provenance: from the artist's own collection until 2003; Michael Lewis the artist's son until 2008.

Exhibited: Imperial Gallery of Art, Imperial Institute South Kensington, Exhibition of Works Submitted in the Competitions for the Rome Scholarships of 1932 in Mural Painting, Sculpture & Engraving, January-February 1932. The Unknown Artist: Stanley Lewis and his contemporaries, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum, 12th June - 5th September

Stanley entered the 1932 Rome Scholarship in Mural Painting under the insistence of Rothenstein who was convinced that Lewis, having been runner up two years earlier, was capable of winning a scholarship. Still under the age of 25, by a matter of weeks, he was still just eligible to enter, but this would be his last chance. Accordingly Stanley asked the Director of Education at Newport, where he had recently accepted the post of teaching assistant, for three months off. 
I thought I would never get the chance to enter the Prix de Rome again but Rothenstein kept writing letters to me and encouraged me to enter adding, "you;ll win next time".

Stanley prepared initial studies and cartoon at home, Llwyn-On, and then moved to London to complete canvas during first few months of 1931. He knew Hyde Park well from his days at the Royal College of Art - he loved going there  to sketch . The subject - a metropolitan scenescence - makes an interesting pendant to his Allegory of two years earlier. These two pictures might be seen as a discourse between Town and Country.   His choice of an overtly  modern subject might also have been to answer his critics who found that in Allegory "his field workers are much more conscious of Rome than of their legitimate business….”. The characters in Hyde Park show no such detachment.  The painting gives a remarkable account of a summers day in central London.   Stanley resisted criticism from his fellow student and fiance, Muriel Pemberton, who interfered with the painting insisting he should be more modern in his approach.  Similar pressure was applied by Stanley 's landlady and Aunt, Sally Taylor, herself a painter whose art took you beyond the normal world - abstract and expressionism and so on.  Stan you might as well be a camera she said sniffly when she saw my studies of the painting.  And that is it really, I felt an inner force burning to capture my world around exactly as I saw it in the reality that it was.

That Hyde Park was only awarded third place, a disappointment to Stanley,   is perhaps not surprising - the life-size scale of large scale cartoon (cat ) works wonderfully well but the finished oil makes a better easel painting rather than a mural. The painting is in fact closer in spirit to a Breughal – rather than for instance Puvis de Chavannes mural, and  has the quality of a  busy easel painting rather than the static classicism that was so much the spirit of the Rome School.

The composition was partly inspired by Seurat.  Stanley admired Seurats strong silhouettes “dark figures against the sky”, such as he had seen in Bathers at Asniers in the National Gallery. Stanley was also aware of paintings by other artists such as Philip Conard (a reproduction of whose 1923 R.A Exhibit Kensington Gardens 1923  he kept in one of his scrap books)  . It is also highly likely than Stanley had in mind Percy Horton's composition Kensington Gardens (1923), Horton having been a teacher at The Royal College of Art from 1922-1924.

Stanley himself appears center stage, reclining, his sketching bag to hand. My  mother and sister made fun of his plus fours, which I bought for riding his Raleigh bike across London.  The models for the painting were mostly people Stanley saw in the park – “real people are often like that – groups of people enjoying themselves”. He visited the Park early each morning to sketch the down and outs who slept there at night. From numerous pocket book sketches Stanley worked his figure studies up at his lodgings in Earls Court (see cat. no.     ). The man seated on the far right, reading, was Stanley’s father. Stanley sourced other figures from his pocket book, “Look at Albrecht Durer – he never left the house without a sketch book –recording a broken wall, a tree, a figure walking.” Some of the models Lewis used were from Newport. Many of the children were from Croesycieiliog. Mrs Roberts doing needlework (seated in red), Clifford Barry, one of Stanley’s students at Newport who Stanley considered to be a fine watercolourist, (seated extreme right smoking and mid left drinking from a flask). The old lady seated in profile on the left was a Royal College of Art Model. The fashionable lady holding an umbrella arm in arm with a gentleman in a top hat was Miss Muriel Pemberton, later head of fashion at St. Martins (a post she held until she retired). At the time Lewis was courting her; she glances back coquettishly towards him. Pemberton also served as the model for the seated central figure with the Chinese parasol which Stanley recalls going to buy as a compositional devise, to add colour, from Woolworths.  The figure in a red beret holding Stanley’s bicycle is his sister Margaret. His young cousin Joan, (daughter of Aunt Sally) is playing with a hoop - she was also the model for the girl eating an apple in Allegory, Stanley's first attempt at the Rome Scholarship. The woman in light blue sitting on the ground and reading a book is a fellow student from the Royal College of Art. The woman seated to the center left, in blue, is Stanley's cousin Edith .

As well as making 100s of small sketches of Hyde Park Stanley also used his favourite box Kodak camera to record the Park, sometimes squaring- up the photographs.

Hyde Park in Summer was also referred to by Stanley as simply The Park – Study for a large Mural Decoration.

Stanley Lewis (1905 - 2009)

Painter, teacher and museum curator, born in Cardiff. He attended Newport College of Art, 1923-6, and the Royal College of Art, 1926-30, teaching at Newport College in the 193os. After war service he became principal of Carmarthen School of Art for 22 years from 1946, then retired and with his wife founded the Pram and Toy Museum at Beckington, Somerset. He illustrated newspaper articles by his wife Min Lewis and her book Laugharne and Dylan Thomas, in 1967, and had one-man shows at various Laugharne Festivals. Showed for many years with Gwent Art Society, SWG and elsewhere and with Michael Ayrton and Enzo Plazzotta shared a three-man show at Bruton Gallery, Somerset. Newport Museum and Art Gallery holds his work. Lewis' show War Images there in 2003 was based on a large unfinished World War II painting and preparatory draw¬ings which the artist donated to the collection. 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 earn 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). Stanley’s art has period charm. It occupies a backwater (rather than the mainstream) of British Art - this is the unmapped territory that art historians will increasingly look at as accounts of 20th Century British Art are revised. 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 Dress, The Welsh Mole Catcher, The Welsh Farmer, and The Welsh Dresser. There is arguably no other series of genre paintings in British Art which capture so evocatively Welsh identity. 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: ‘I must admit instinct has kept me on the straight-and-narrow path to carry on working my art into what I am: I am a farmer’s son and I have never craved to be in any one else’s shoes.’ Stanley produced little in the way of major paintings during the last decades of the 20th century, though he did continue to draw, (often reworking earlier drawings), and increasingly put his energy into producing and publishing his book illustrations. In his 101st year, in 2006, Stanley published a last edition of drawings under the title: Adventures in Animal Town, using computer software (Photoshop) to add colour to the remarkable images which half a decade earlier, in black and white, had graced the pages of the South Wales Evening Post. (Fig. 2) Stanley first contacted Liss Fine Art (by email!), aged 101, wanting to know what had happened to his former mentors Thomas Monnington and A.K. Lawrence. Stanley’s career spanned a large part of the 20th century. Yet the fruit of his labour was never publicly exhibited. This is the first ever exhibition of his work. Stanley put his longevity down to cigars, whisky and Michelangelo. He took great pleasure in helping prepare the notes in this catalogue. Recalling events from between 50 and 90 years ago it is remarkable how accurate his memory proved to be. It is sad that Stanley is not alive to see this exhibition. Asked, age 103, if he was finally ready for his first ever show, or whether he would like a little more time to prepare, he inhaled gently on his cigar and, with a puff of smoke and a faint chuckle, said: ‘I think I am ready’. The day before he died he asked Jenni his daughter to type up his final wishes: ‘… And when my exhibition is up and running, open a good bottle of champagne and celebrate and think of me. No doubt I will be there in spirit to keep an eye on things.’ Link to full catalogue :

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