Sunday, June 12, 2016

Henry Lamb (1883-1960)

One of my favourite ways to discover a new-to-me artist and their work is through a secondhand exhibition catalogue. This is exactly what happened the other day with Henry Lamb (1883-1960): I stumbled on a catalogue from his 1984 retrospective at Manchester. As the catalogue notes, he was possibly the last of that generation of early twentieth century artists to be given a full-scale retrospective. The top two black and white images on this post, "Phantasy" and "The Green Man or, The Traveller" are scans from that catalogue. It's too easy to assume that the Internet will simply offer up full-colour, hi-res images of any art work you want to see these days but this is not the case. To find the full-colour image of The Green Man below at anything like a reasonable size I had to hunt down auction results, screen capture the image in bits and then stitch it back together. I still haven't found a colour reproduction of Phantasy even though it currently resides in the Tate collection. 

In both cases it would be nice to know more about the thought and feeling behind these paintings. The Phantasy was painted in 1912 at a time when Lamb was riding a lot. The catalogue quotes Lady Pansy Lamb rather enigmatically reporting that Henry "always had a fantasy about a white horse, especially one with wings." The painting was done as a commission by Lord Bentinck but, on completion, was bought by Robert Ross. Lamb wasn't very happy with it "the colours are not ethereal enough and the background is badly bothered.. still something of the idea remains visible." The Green Man, whilst clearly influenced by Picasso also remains something of a mystery in terms of the motivation and thought process behind it.

Having found a couple of images in the catalogue that grab my attention, of course the next thing is to comb the internet for others. Art UK, which used to be the BBC Your Paintings website can be very helpful, as can auction results: images from which often don't appear in straightforward google image searches. Lamb was a versatile artist who produced decorative work, WW1 imagery and a large body of very sensitive and subject-responsive portraiture.

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