Portrait of Gandhi, 1931
Framed (ref: 4245)
Pencil, 7 3/8 x 5 1/8 in. (18.8 x 13 cm.)
Provenance: Theodara Winsten, the artist's daughter.
This is the finest in a series of portraits that Winsten made of
Gandhi when she made his acquaintance in Hampstead during Gandhi's celebrated trip to England in 1931. Unlike so many portraits of Gandhi which were taken from photographs Winsten had the privilege of meeting Gandhi in person.
Provanenance: The Artist's Daughter, Theodora
In a fine square section gilded oak frame with broad inner slip
My parents life-time active involvement in social, humanitarian causes, as well as the arts, brought them into touch with likeminded people from many spheres. This affinity produced portraits of, among others, D.H.Lawrence, Montessori, Catherine Lonsdale, Mahatma Gandhi, Bernard Shaw.... My parents first met Mahatma Gandhi in the 1930s when living at Hampstead (and this) led to a remarkable series of paintings and drawings. There was such an empathy between them that Clare was invited to be there .....whenever she wanted.
Clare Winsten came to the Slade as a student in 1910, the year when Roger Fry's "Manet and the Post-Impressionists" exhibition changed the views of many artists in London, and caused others dismay, as life-long convictions were brusquely challenged. She, showed academic and artistic talent early at school, gaining a scholarship to the Female School of Art. Because of her promise, a transfer was arranged to the Slade - into' the exacting regime of Henry Tonks, just as he was countering what he saw as the threat surrounding Fry's ideas.
Late in life Clare Winsten wrote her autobiography. Here it is clearly stated that she was recognised by Tonks as a gifted student. Yet she could share in the conversations and friendships productive of advanced "imaginative" work, which, in retrospect she saw as central to her artistic career.
Her interests were not restricted to art, but extended to how life could best be conducted. During a long and happy marriage, a partnership of concerns developed - pacifism, garden city living, vegetarianism, rethinking how children should be brought up. Some of the most cogent parts of her autobiography deal with the time when her husband was imprisoned as a conscientious objector during the First World War. All this fed back into Clare's artistic projects, and she came to divide her time between family and friends, writing plays and novels, and periods of sustained painting.
Clare Winsten did not date her drawings, and they have yet to be sorted chronologically. Taken in total, they present a wide range of psychological and formal modes. Those which appear to be early share a rhythmic simplification with the generation of Gaudier-Brzeska, and a heritage from Brancusi, Picasso of around 1908, and Matisse of the "Dance".
These represent only her more formalising moments. Other drawings show emotional tension: people whisper it would appear dark tales to each other. Sometimes their faces are distorted for some inscrutable reason. It could be argued that it is precisely this ambiguity that visual art explores: if the emotion were explicit a diagram would suffice. The drawings at times suggest the threatening social vision of Edward Burra as he explores the bleak urban scene of contemporary Germany; or of James Boswell's politically critical work of the 1930s. And from more remote history, there are reminders of Ostade's peasant victims, Rembrandt's grimacing self-portraits, or Fuseli's "head-on-hand" self-scrutiny.
The drawings often bear her initials, signifying that a public face was intended; they might be passed round, shared as an intimate art form. For long periods, Clare also painted. A good deal of the drawn work was preliminary to painted compositions but the wall spaces at' the Strang cannot accommodate these large and ambitious works. The drawings on their own have a completeness and offer sequences of artistic problems cogently worked out. Her later life was spent away from art schools and the society of artists, and she shared with many women a certain isolation; however, she retained her sense of adventurousness, producing some superb drawings - daemonic, or formally reductive, or sharply skeletal.
She remained a responsive participant in causes and movements critical of the way life was being shaped. Her oeuvre spanned from the turbulence leading to the First World War as far as the era of totalitarianism - and thence to the partition of India. The drawings, therefore, bear witness to the rarely worked interface between modernist art and the issues of early twentiethcentury social criticism.