CRW Nevinson: A Printmaker in War and Peace

As we come to the end one of the busiest weeks in the art calendar – one of Osborne Samuel’s most celebrated exhibitions, CRW Nevinson: A Printmaker in War and Peace, draws to a close.  This exhibition has been the largest and most comprehensive show of Nevinson prints ever seen by the public, with selected paintings and drawings by the artist on display as well.

CRW Nevinson: A Printmaker in War and Peace has been the life-long ambition of Osborne Samuel director, Gordon Samuel and it is thanks to his passion and persistence that we have had such a successful show. Gordon recalls;

“As a South Londoner, my childhood local museums were the wonderful Dulwich

Picture Gallery and the Horniman Museum, with the Imperial War Museum just a bus

ride away. The War Museum of course attracted a 12 year old schoolboy like a magnet

and I was immediately awestruck being up close to real airplanes suspended above

my head, real tanks to try and climb onto, cannons and guns and all the trappings of

war; it was irresistibly fascinating and continues to be so today to all schoolchildren.

But, during my frequent visits to the museum, I soon ventured beyond the planes

and tanks into the museum’s picture collection and my attention was gripped by

the paintings of war, particularly the First World War. I wasn’t then aware who the

artists were but I was mesmerised by the horrors of war depicted on such a grand

scale. I must have looked at Nevinson’s The Harvest of Battle, 1919, Paths of Glory or the

desolated landscape of After a Push, 1917 and The Road from Arras to Baupaume, 1918. I

must also have seen the set of six lithographs of The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideal

– Build Aircraft included in this exhibition.

My first major purchase of Nevinson’s prints as a dealer was a group of about a

dozen or more in the early 1980s. I showed a selection of them at the very first

London Original Print Fair at the Royal Academy of Arts, I think the most expensive

was about £1000 for French Troops Resting, 1916. I sold several of the prints to Richard

Attenborough, the late Lord Attenborough, which resurfaced at his extraordinarily

successful auction sale at Sotheby’s in November 2009. In fact, I recall him telling me

that the inspiration for his award winning film Oh What a Lovely War! came from a small

Nevinson drypoint he once owned of a group of soldiers perched atop a telegraph

pole mending the lines of communication – it is titled Nerves of an Army, 1918 and is in

the present exhibition; in fact, he reconstructed the scene in the film.”

The catalogue raisonné of Nevinson’s prints was also launched alongside the exhibition. This book, compiled by Dr Jonathan Black, documents Nevinson’s prints from 1916 to 1933 and contains four insightful essays on Nevinson as a printmaker, documenting his prints of the Great War, London, Paris and New York.

Available prints and the catalogue raisonné will be on the Osborne Samuel stand at the annual IFPDA New York Print Fair from 5-9 November 2014.

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