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20th Century British Art
Lot 18: CHRISTOPHER RICHARD WYNNE NEVINSON, A.R.A. 1889-1946 LA CORNICHE
oil on canvas
Sale, Sotheby's, London, 7th November 1990, lot 26A, whence purchased by the present owner
London, Leicester Galleries, Memorial Exhibition of Pictures by C.R.W. Nevinson, May - June 1947;
London, Imperial War Museum and toured to Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, C.R.W. Nevinson: The Twentieth Century, October 1999 - January 2000, no.122, illustrated in colour in the exhibition catalogue, p.177.
LITERATURE AND REFERENCES
Albert Rutherston (ed.), Contemporary British Artists: C.R.W. Nevinson, Ernest Benn, London, 1925, illustrated pl.18.
Painted in 1920.
Nevinson's post-WWI painting has, with the exception of the London and New York images, frequently been rather dismissed by writers as insubstantial and lacking the verve of his wartime output. However, recent scholarship and exhibitions have rethought the context of his post-WWI work and we can now see that in common with many of his fellow artists who saw service during the Great War, their move back towards the peacetime world presented them with the problems of both personal recuperation and finding a manner and subject which would sell. Virtually all fell back on the landscape and still life genres, and although Nevinson's contemporary writings and proclamations would continually declare him to be the rebel outsider, he was actually doing the same.
Whilst Nevinson's work of the 1920s can vary widely in content and sentimentality, he is frequently able to combine the edge of his wartime work with less traumatic subjects to great success. The present painting takes the high viewpoint often used in the war paintings (cf. Ypres After the First Bombardment, 1915, Coll. Sheffield City Art Galleries), but here it reinforces the sense that we are looking down on the small harbour from perhaps a private garden or a terrace. We see the backs and the roofs of the buildings below from the angle of the neighbour rather than the tourist. The cubist-influenced buildings are similar to those found in his contemporary prints and paintings of New York, again shifting the emphasis away from the decorative depiction it could so easily have become. By placing the oversized, spiky palms across the picture surface, Nevinson forces the viewer to look through the network of carefully placed leaves, breaking the picture up into smaller sections, thus negating the sweep of the harbour wall and taking away the sense of a 'picturesque' scene.
Dimensions: 61 by 76cm., 24 by 30in.
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20th Century British Art