The Four Seasons; Winter in the Alps
Oil on canvas
each appoximately 47 x 74 in. (119.4 x 188 cm)
Provenance: The Fine Art Society; The Fortunoff collection [HF15]
Exhibited: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 117.
Literature: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 117, page 159.
In wartime wry humour and nostalgia, particularly in the popular arts – song, film, theatre, and painting – play an important part in combating the enemy and keeping up morale on the home front. Documentary art is for posterity, but for the serviceman or woman on leave something that reminds them of happier times is required. During the dark days of WW2, if you were out for a carefree evening posterity was hardly a priority, especially as you were conscious that there could be no tomorrow. Those on leave and those at home needed relief from the grim realities of the everyday state of affairs. Nostalgia, especially the recall of moments of transient bliss, is often evoked through the senses, sight, sound and smell – the whiff of a particular scent, the half-heard notes of a familiar tune, the sight of a particular image. In times of danger, rose-tinted spectacles have the ability to make the recollection of such transient pleasures more special than they had ever been in reality.
As an artist Allinson was ideally placed to summon up the settings for such idyllic memories; he was not only familiar with the English countryside, but in the 1920s he had spent a considerable time in the Alps and skied for England, before forsaking the frozen north for what he described as ‘the quintessential loveliness’ of Mallorca. Nothing today is known about the circumstances of the commissioning of this evocative series of canvases depicting the four seasons – Spring in Mallorca, Summer on the South Coast, Autumn in the Cotswolds and Winter in the Alps – but their size and broad-brush treatment would suggest that they were painted to decorate a place of relaxation and entertainment. Given the date, the one poignant note is the inclusion of the young Jewish goat boy (who wears a Kippah) looking wistfully at the revellers from the margins of the Alpine fair. A touching note of sympathy and affinity; a reminder of Allinson’s own Jewish ancestry, his liberal, freethinking mother, being the granddaughter of a Polish rabbi.
Adrian Allinson (1890-1959)
Adrian Allinson was a British painter, potter and engraver, known for his landscapes of Southern Europe and North Africa, and for a series of posters he made for British Railways.
Allinson was the eldest son of a doctor, Thomas Allinson, whose advocacy of vegetarianism and contraception had led to his being struck off, and a German Jewish portrait painter. After leaving Wycliffe College, Allinson began studying medicine, but gave this up and turned instead to art, gaining a scholarship in his second year at the Slade School of Fine Art. Graduating in 1910, he travelled to Europe to study in Paris and in Munich. Following his first exhibition, at the Alpine Club Gallery, in February 1911, he became one of the founding members of the Camden Town Group, and with other members later joined with the Vorticists to form The London Group.
A pacifist, Allinson associated himself with the Bloomsbury Group during the First World War, producing drawings for the Daily Express newspaper and one of his most important works, a scene inside the Café Royal made in 1915-16. He also designed sets for the Beecham Opera Company. Following the war he again travelled to Europe.
He became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1933 and of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1936.
During the 1930s he made a series of posters for London Transport and for the Empire Marketing Board. He was selected as a government war artist by the War Artists Advisory Committee during World War II. After the war, he taught at the Westminster Technical Institute.
See all works by Adrian Allinson