Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Stanley Lewis (1905 - 2009)   BIOGRAPHY

Ready for the Off, early 1940’s.
Passe-partout (ref: 4340)
Pencil on paper 
3 x 5 ¼ in. (7.5 x 13.5 cm)


Exhibited: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 74. 

Literature: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 74, page 113.

After training at Kinmel Park in Prestatyn, North Wales, in the Royal Artillery and later serving as a Battery Clerk for the 9th Ac Ac Regiment at Ranby, Stanley was posted to the 66th Searchlight Regiment (Gloucesters). ‘Lieut. Colonel MacWaters was in charge and he interviewed me concerning painting a picture commemorating the searchlight service during the war. He gave me a list of fifteen possible subjects for me to choose from and I choseMorning Maintenance on a Searchlight Site. He allowed a jeep with a driver to travel to different sites to choose a suitable location for the picture. Eventually I chose a site at Low Ham in Somerset. This site was most suitable as the great searchlight was situated in a Somerset apple orchard and looking North to the hilltop was the famous Glastonbuy Tor. I settled there and became one of the searchlight team and in my spare time I worked on the painting.’  At one point Colonel MacWaters asked Stanley to paint the searchlight in a less detailed manner fearing that it might cause a breach of security! Stanley refused to compromise leading the Colonel to insist the painting was accompanied by one of his officers when the painting was sent to London to be framed.

‘I enjoyed the war: plenty of exercise, moving from camp to camp. It gave me the opportunity to paint. It kept me going. I remember when I joined I was always sketching - “you better give that stuff up until the war is over”, one of my comrades told me: “don’t be so bloody silly”, I said., “I am an artist.” When the War broke out I went on teaching the students. But they all began to disappear. They all went to the forces. It was only the lame and the blind that were left. I didn’t know what to do. About a year after the war started Harrison the Principal sent for me. He was sorting out all the A1 men to go into the forces. It was my turn’. After training at Kemmel Park in Prestatyn, North Wales, in the Royal Artillery as a Gunner, and later serving as a Battery Clerk for the 9th Ac Ac Regiment at Ranby, Stanley was posted to the 66th Searchlight Regiment (Gloucesters) in Somerset.Asked if he would have liked to have been an official war artist Stanley replied: ‘yes, but the fact that I was unofficial left me free to do and paint what I chose; and I’ll tell you what - many of those Official War Artists were not amongst it – I was a soldier; I was right in the middle of it.’ In spite of not being an Official War Artist Stanley was commissioned to produce three major paintings during World War Two: Wartime Newport, The Home Front, 1940-1941  Morning Maintenance on a Searchlight Site, 1943 (whereabouts unknown) and The Attack on the Tirpitz by the Fleet Air Arm, 1944.

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 :

See all works by Stanley Lewis