The Acrobat, 1919

by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson

P.O.A.

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DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 24.5 x 19 ins/ 52.5 x 48.3 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed and dated lower left
MEDIUM: Pastel on paper

 

Catalogue No: 5124 Categories: ,

Although the artist is celebrated as a War Artist, his other great subject was the city. Searching for fresh subjects after 1918, London and then New York provided became his inspirations. Crowds interested him, and in the same year he made two large lithographs, The Workers and Wet Evening, Oxford Street in which people are pressed together, as well as another pastel on a large scale, The Food Queue from 1918. The acrobat’s contortions on the wet cobblestones appear to be of little interest to the men and women queuing, wrapped in raincoats, but it has arrested the artist’s attention.

Private Collection, United Kingdom, 1925;
José and Muriel Campus;
Private Collection, United Kingdom

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Richard Nevinson was born in Hampstead, one of the two children, and the only son, of the war correspondent and journalist Henry Nevinson and the suffrage campaigner and writer Margaret Nevinson Educated at Uppingham School, Nevinson went on to study at the St John’s Wood School of Art. Inspired by seeing the work of Augustus John, he decided to attend the Slade School of Art. There his contemporaries there included Mark Gertler, Stanley Spencer and Paul Nash.

 

Nevinson studied under the well reputed artist Henry Tonks. In Paris he studied at the Academie Julian, where he met Vladimir Lenin and Pablo Picasso. He shared a studio with Amedeo Modigliani, became acquainted with Cubism and also met the Italian Futurists Marinetti and Gino Severini, by whom he was greatly inspired. In London, he also became friends with the radical writer and artist Wyndham Lewis.

 

The war had a major impact on the artist’s career. Nevinson was celebrated for having produced some of the most enduring trench paintings of The Great War. He was therefore appointed as an official war artist during WWII. Following that, he turned to depicting urban scenes of Modern life, leaving the horrors of the war behind. Pictures such as this one are romanticised images of the increase in leisure time from which people benefited following World War II, and the technological advances it had produced.

 

Nevinson was highly regarded throughout his career; he was awarded the Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in 1938 and was made an Associate of the Royal Academy the following year.

Albert Rutherston (ed), Osbert Sitwell (introduction), C.R.W. Nevinson, London 1925, pl 9 (dated 1918);
Richard Ingleby, Jonathan Black, David Cohen, Gordon Cooke, C.R.W. Nevinson: The
Twentieth Century, London 1999, pp 168-69;
The Fine Art Society, Lasting Impressions, London 2017, no. 28