Contemporary Art Society Report 1938-39

28 July 2015
Cover for the 1938-39 Contemporary Art Society Report
Cover for the 1938-39 Contemporary Art Society Report

Speech by the Chairman at the Ninth Ordinary General Meeting of the C.A.S. held at the Tate Gallery on 18 April 1940

Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is, I think, the fourth time it has been my duty to address you on this annual occasion. My second and third speeches were nothing but attempts to disguise the fact that they were the first one over again, for I had little to do but rehearse the objects of the Society, which were as simple and salutary and stale as the Ten Commandments, and apt to wear thin. But now those blessed humdrum days are over, and I have more variety in my subject.

Before I embark on our war-time activities, I must speak of a great loss and bereavement which has befallen us in the sudden early death of Montague Shearman. His sensitive, informed and enthusiastic love of the art of painting, his wide knowledge of men and affairs, his native energy and his charming and sterling character, formed a combination which made his work as our Honorary Secretary invaluable; and he will be remembered by all of us with sorrow and affection. He left a final and signal mark of his devotion to our cause by bequeathing to the Society the privilege of choosing six works from his splendid collection of modern pictures, French and English, which is now to be seen
at the Redfern Gallery. The Sub-Committee which was entrusted with the choice took the view that fine as many of
the English paintings were, preference should be given to examples of the French School, which, in the ordinary course, we have far fewer opportunities of acquiring; and after much searching of heart in presence of so many rich treasures, a selection was made of six pictures, all of which may safely be described as masterpieces: a Sisley, a Toulouse-Lautrec, a Matisse, a Utrillo, a Rouault, and a Vuillard. These will be offered to the Tate Gallery, and if, as seems highly probable, they are accepted, they will greatly strengthen the representation of the six masters, and keep the name of Montague Shearman green in the memory of lovers of painting.

I should like to say a word about another benefaction to the Nation in which, although the Society is not directly concerned, it has good reason for satisfaction. We have not forgotten Lord Henry Bentinck, who was for so many years our perfect Chairman, and it is pleasant to know that under the will of his widow-herself a painter of considerable talent, which I think would have been recognized if she had not been too modest to allow her works to be shown in public-the pick of his fine collection has passed to the Tate Gallery.

On Mr. Shearman’s death our former Hon. Secretary, Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill, and Mr.St.John Hutchinson, very kindly volunteered to act as Joint Hon. Secretaries for the time being. It will fall to the Committee at the meeting which follows this one to make a permanent appointment. I have not the gift of prophecy, but I may confide in you that I should not be surprised if this arrangement were to be confirmed; and in the interest of the Society I hope this will be so. I need not waste your time by dwelling on the emergency which sprang on the world of Art, as well as on all the other worlds, including the World in general, with the outbreak of war. It looked at first as if every artist except the comparatively few who were chosen for war work must be overwhelmed in ruin. Nobody would have either money or peace of mind to buy pictures; and the teaching jobs, on which so many depend for their butter if not for their bread, would be cut down to the bone. But after a few months of thick black cloud a silver lining became visible. The danger was more and more clearly realized, the Press played up nobly, and rubbed it well in that the civilization we were fighting for would lose much of its value and all its bloom if the Arts were allowed to perish. The stunned
dealers came to, and during the past three or four months a number of admirable shows, both ‘one-man’ and composite, have been held, with equally surprising results both in sales and public interest. One of the first was just before Christmas at the Leicester Galleries, where small pictures of uniform size and the uniform price of five guineas sold like hot cakes, whereby many painters were enabled to afford a bit of holly for their Christmas pudding. I should like to say in passing that in the opinion of good judges, we have now a crop of young artists of high promise, the like of which has not been seen for many years; and it is very encouraging to find that there is a large and growing market for their works, provided that they are of moderate size and priced fairly low.

In the more official sphere high hopes may be placed in the newly-established Central Institute of Art and Design, which is to deal in the most comprehensive and practical manner with all the multifarious ways in which all the Arts can be made to contribute to the needs, both material and spiritual, of this exacting time. The fact that the initiation of this great enterprise was largely due to Sir Kenneth Clark is a guarantee that our Society will have an opportunity of contributing to its work in the measure of its powers.

I now come to the Society’s own activities. Fortunately, we found ourselves at the outbreak of war in an unusually strong position, The first eight months of last year were, on the whole, prosperous for us. Several of the dealers, particularly Messrs. Tooth, who gave their clients special facilities for joining us, and the Leicester and Storran Galleries, took a sympathetic and helpful interest in our work, and the publicity which they gave us added over seventy new members (and I will interpolate here something that happened later- Messrs. Agnew, with great generosity, gave us a percentage on their exhibition of contemporary pictures, which produced the handsome sum of £81). I am sure you will agree that we are very fortunate in our good relations with these great powers in the world of Art. At our second meeting after the outbreak of war, we were in possession of a quite considerable surplus, and it was agreed that the moment was one for spending freely rather than building up a reserve. In addition to the normal £500 for the titular buyer, Mr. Ernest Marsh, five sums of £150 each were entrusted to five members of the Committee chosen by lot. On these gentlemen, not having myself drawn a lucky number, I look with a green eye.

Apart from purchases, our main activity has been in holding or contributing to various exhibitions. We started in the last months of 1939 with a room at the Leicester Galleries containing a selection from the works in our current stock available for our usual travelling Exhibitions. This, of course, afforded nothing like a just representation of our riches, by far the greater part of which are given away almost continuously to the provincial galleries; but with that allowance made it was a very creditable little show, and met with a good deal of appreciation.

Next came an exhibition at Oxford, in which the Ashmolean Gallery, under its distinguished Curator Mr. Parker, cooperated with the Society, whose powers were delegated to Sir Muirhead Bone. The pictures were sent in by invitation, and were for sale; and though, alas, the sales were not very numerous, the attendance was good. The Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge, under its energetic director Mr. Louis Clarke, was stirred to emulation, and is at the present moment showing a collection of seventy or eighty pictures lent about half-and-half by this Society and one of its members. I understand that it has aroused great interest in Cambridge.

We have also made loans to the very fine exhibition now holding at the National Gallery under the title ‘British Painting since Whistler’. This undertaking, which was made possible by the inexhaustible zeal and good will of Sir Kenneth Clark, is surely one of the most satisfactory signs of the times. It has really, if I may be so vulgar, made people sit up. The name ‘National Gallery’ is draped in prestige, and when we see the walls accustomed to Titians and Correggios tamely enduring, or even appearing to welcome, the works of our contemporaries, we rub our eyes to perceive the possibility of strong men living after Agamemnon, in our own time and place.

We have also made loans to an interesting exhibition in London, got up by the body which bears the less august title of British Institute of Adult Education, presided over by Mr. W. E. Williams, indefatigable in this good work, with Mrs. Jan Gordon’s help. Last, but not least, we are on the point of sending round the provinces an exhibition of single works by nearly a hundred painters, from the great veterans at the top down to young men whose work has so far hardly been seen in public. Nearly all the pictures and drawings will be for sale. They have been very carefully chosen, and I venture to say that the exhibition is one which will do us high credit. It will be opened at Bath on May 4th by Sir Kenneth Clark, who must be tired of hearing me pronounce his name; but he has brought it on himself by his constant willingness to take any trouble by which he can help us. The Exhibition will later be sent to a number of cities and towns for about a month apiece, and such is the interest it has evoked that it is already booked as far ahead as March next year. The business arrangements are in the capable and experienced hands of Mr. Chisman, of the Art Exhibitions Bureau.

A full account of the Society’s doings in 1939 will be rendered in our Report, which will be sent to members at an early date, the publication having been unavoidably delayed by the extra work thrown on our small staff by the expansion of our activities which I have described. All these activities naturally involve an increase of our expenditure, and I must repeat with even greater emphasis than usual my annual plea for a corresponding increase in our membership. I hope you will do your best to enlist further support; and it only remains for me to finish with the traditional prayer that the blessing of God may rest upon our labours.
* * * *
The Contemporary Art Society was founded in 1909, in the conviction that much of the finer artistic talent of that time was imperfectly if not at all represented in the National and Municipal Galleries. Since that date both the Tate Gallery and many Provincial Galleries have benefited by numerous gifts and by representative loans of British work. Throughout the last war, the Society, then a youthful body with very meagre resources at its command, continued to pursue- as it means to do in the present war-its aim of encouraging modern artists by purchasing their work, presenting or lending examples of it to public galleries, and arranging for its exhibition. It was during that period that Sickert’s ‘Ennui’, Spencer Gore’s ‘Houghton Place’, Derwent Lees’ ‘Aldbourne’ and Lucien Pissarro’s ‘High View; Fishpond’ were acquired, among many other works, for the nation’s Museums and Galleries. It has been the policy of the Committee, whose members represent a wide range of opinion, to continue to fill, as they occur, what would seem to posterity to be inexcusable gaps in our public collections. The Society was directly responsible for the first works to enter the Tate Gallery by John, Epstein, Gill, Maillol, Rouault, Stanley Spencer, Duncan Grant and Paul Nash; and it was with the aid of the Society that the Tate acquired its first Picasso and its first Segonzac.

The method of purchase is as follows:
A single member of the Committee is appointed as buyer for twelve months, and has the spending of £500 of the Society’s income, the balance being put into a Reserve Fund for special purchases. Acquisitions are either retained by the Society and lent from time to time for exhibitions, or presented outright to some public gallery. After a certain number of years it is in the power of the Committee to sell pictures which for any reason they no longer wish to keep, and buy others with the proceeds.

The present Report covers a period of two years, since it was felt by the members of the Committee that it was not justifiable in these days of enforced economy to publish one each year. It contains a list of the acquisitions of the Society during the years 1936 and 1937 and its gifts to London and Provincial Galleries, and a statement of subscriptions and donations during the two years, together with Financial Statements and separate Reports for the Print Fund and the Arts and Crafts Fund.

During 1938-9 the Society participated in the Empire Exhibition at Glasgow, in the British Council’s Northern Capitals Exhibition, and in the British Exhibition at the New York World’s Fair.

Pictures were also lent to Bath, Birkenhead, Burton-on-Trent, Derby, Dudley, Halifax, Kidderminster, Mansfield, Newcastle, Northampton, Platt Hall (The Rutherston Loan Scheme), and to the British Institute of Adult Education, the Empire Art Loan Collections Society, the Cambridge University Arts Society, and the Edinburgh University Arts Society.

The buyers for the years 1938 and 1939 were Mr. Jasper Ridley and Sir Kenneth Clark respectively.

The late Montague Shearman filled the office of Hon. Secretary from June 1938 until his death in February 1940.
Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill and Mr. St.John Hutchinson were appointed to succeed him as joint Hon. Secretaries.

Miss Thelma Cazalet and Mr. J. K. M. Rothenstein were appointed members of the Executive Committee in 1938.

During 1938, through the courtesy of the Goldsmith’s Company, members were invited to a reception at the Goldsmith’s Hall to view an exhibition of modern gold and silver work. In 1939, through the kindness of Sir Kenneth and Lady Clark and Mr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Blackwell, members were invited to visit their collections; the Committee regret that owing to the outbreak of war arrangements for further visits to private collections, planned to take place in the autumn, had to be abandoned.

Ordinary General Meetings of the C.A.S. were held on June 23, 1938, and on May 18, 1939. In accordance with the Articles of Association, Mr. St. John Hutchinson, Mr. Courtauld and Sir Augustus Daniel retired from the Executive Committee in 1938, and Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill, Mr. Ernest Marsh and Mr. Jasper Ridley in 1939; being eligible, they were unanimously re-elected.

Mr. Charles Underwood was re-elected auditor of the Society.

On 7 April 1931, the Contemporary Art Society was incorporated. This step was taken in view of the frequently-expressed desire of friends of the Society to bequeath to it, on their death, either funds or pictures, and it was not possible to take advantage of this without the necessary formality of first incorporating the Society. The Society is now officially recognized as a charity, and members paying their subscriptions through the National Council of Social Service, 26 Bedford Square, London, W.C.1, may reclaim income tax through that body.

It has been arranged that all members of the Contemporary Art Society may attend, free of charge, exhibitions at the following Galleries on presentation of their card of membership:

The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square; The Tate Gallery, Millbank; The Wallace Collection; The British Museum Print Room; The French Gallery; The Lefevre Galleries; The Leicester Galleries; The London Group Exhibitions; and The Seven and Five Exhibitions.

Cards of Membership have been sent to all members.

The minimum annual subscription is placed at the figure of one guinea, in order that as large a number of members may be enlisted as possible. Subscriptions or donations should be sent to the Hon Secretary, Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill, 9 Chelsea Embankment, S.W.3.

Artist, Title, £, s. d.

John Armstrong,  The Wife of Diomedes, 25, o, o
H. Brodzky, Three Drawings, 15, 15, 0
Ian Fairweather, A Chinese Tea Garden, 15, 0, 0
Lawrence Gowing, Mare Street, Hackney 30, 0, 0
Wyndham Lewis, La Suerte, 52, 10, 0
Paul Nash, Landscape in a Dream, 131, 5, 0
Victor Pasmore, Parisian Cafe, 70, 0, 0
Mervyn Peake, Pastel, 14, 14, 0
Vivian Pitchforth, Glaslyn Valley, 20, 0, 0
Vivian Pitchforth, On the Blackwater (Water-colour), 15, 0, 0
Elizabeth Spurr, Cat in Ebony (Sculpture), 18, 0, 0
Graham Sutherland, Welsh Landscape, 35, 0, 0
Trevor Tennant, Alabaster Group (Sculpture), 42, 0, 0
Geoffrey Tibble, Portrait of Graham Bell, 22, 10, 0
‘The Cafe’, by Graham Bell, was purchased for £50, £20 of which was contributed by Sir Kenneth Clark, Mr. John Hugh Smith and Mr. Gerald Kelly.
‘The Stone Forest’ (water-colour), by Paul Nash, was acquired from the Redfern Gallery in exchange for a drawing previously returned to them and with the additional charge of £5.

Artist, Title, £, s, d.
Henry Moore, Reclining Figure (Sculpture), 300, 0, 0
John Piper, Dead Resort, 31, 10, 0
W.R. Sickert, Mrs. Barret (Pastel), 100, 0, 0
Eric Ravilious, The Yellow Funnel (Water-colour), 14, 14, 0
Victor Pasmore, Reclining Nude, 60, 0, 0
The Foreign Fund Sub-Committee contributed £90 towards the acquisition for the Tate Gallery of a water-colour, ‘La Route de Grimaud’, by A. Dunoyer de Segonzac.

Artist, Title, Presented by
Francis Butterfield, Drawing, Mrs. H. King-Farlow
Henry Moore, Abstract (Drawing), Miss A. F. Brown
W. ]. Steggles, Norfolk Small Holding, Miss A. F. Brown
William Roberts, The Carpet Beaters (Watercolour), Miss A. F. Brown
Betty Sadleir, Landscape (Water-colour), Mr. Michael Sadleir
A. Turpin, Night Shelter, Sir Muirhead Bone
A. Hattemore, Anemones, Sir Muirhead Bone

Artist, Title, Lent by
Max Ernst, The Wood, Miss Elizabeth Watt and Miss Welby
Bores, Still Life, Miss Elizabeth Watt and Miss Welby
William Roberts, The Ballet, Miss Elizabeth Watt and Miss Welby
William Roberts, The Rhine Boat, Miss Elizabeth Watt and Miss Welby
Herman Maril, Going to the Blacksmith’s, Miss Elizabeth Watt and Miss Welby
Tristram Hillier, Pylons, Miss Elizabeth Watt and Miss Welby

Artist, Title
Frank Dobson, Susannah (Bronze)
Wyndham Lewis, La Suerte
John Nash, The Moat
W. T. Monnington, R.A., Decoration
W.R. Sickert, View of a Street
Ethel Walker, Vanessa

Artist Title Town
Gilbert Spencer, Farm House, Aberdeen
Frances Hodgkins, Still Life (Water-colour), The Ashmolean Museum
David Jones, Landscape (Water-colour), The Ashmolean Museum
John Nash, Suspension Bridge, Bath, Bath
John Skeaping, Les Cocades (Drawing), Belfast
G. Nelson, Landscape, Belfast
Frank Nortcliffe, Ferraguida, Belfast
Edward Wolfe, Portrait of a Boy, Bootle
Mark Gertler, Statue in a Park, Bristol
Roger Fry, Autumn Landscape, Derby
Peter Brooker, Portrait of Emile Plantin, Glasgow
Edward Wolfe, Lolita and Jose, Halifax
Christopher Wood, Landscape, Harrogate
Barnett Freedman, London Ballet (Drawing), Harrogate
Frances Hodgkins, Still Life, Hove
Frances Hodgkins, Wings over Water, Leeds
Richard Eurich, Fantasy (Drawing), Lincoln
Klara Klinghofer, Portrait of a Girl (Drawing), Lincoln
Hamilton Dicker, The Artist Painting, Newcastle
Richard Eurich, Round the Point, Newcastle
Rowland Suddaby Farm Road, Yorkshire (Watercolour), Newcastle
Wyndham Lewis, Seated Figure (Drawing), Nottingham
Mark Gertler, Portrait of a Boy, Nottingham
Bernard Meninsky, Portrait of a Child, Oldham
Robin Guthrie, Snow Scene, Platt Hall, Manchester
Elwin Hawthorne, Suburban Church, Platt Hall, Manchester
W.R. Sickert, Two Women, Preston
Geoffrey Tibble, Portrait of Graham Bell, Rochdale
Vanessa Bell, Flowers, Salford
Barnett Freedman, Interior (Drawing), Salford
Lawrence Gowing, Mare Street, Hackney, Shrewsbury
Wyndham Lewis, Seated Woman (Drawing), Shrewsbury
Duncan Grant, The Harbour, King’s Lynn, Stalybridge
Ethel Gabain, Nude in Sunlight, Merthyr Tydfil
Tristram Hillier, Landscape, Wakefield
Winifred Nicholson, Quai d’ Auteuil, The National Museum of Wales
H. Gaudier-Brzeska, Panther (Drawing), The National Museum of Wales
Bakst, Costume Design, The Whitworth Art Gallery
Frances Hodgkins, Still Life, The Whitworth Art Gallery
John Cooper, Orchestra, York

Artist, Title, To, From
John Armstrong, Six Decorative Paintings, Bristol, Sir Geoffrey Fry
Rowland Suddaby, Fishing Boats at Staithes, Bristol, Mrs. D. K. F. King-Farlow
Claude Rogers, Clifton from Cumberland Basin, Bristol, Mrs. D. K. F. King-Farlow
Hazel King-Farlow The Old Mill House, Bristol
Gertrude Hermes, Harvest (Wood-engraving), Birmingham
Elliott Seabrooke, Landscape, Birmingham, Mr.J. Mavrogordato
Canon G. Milner White’s collection of stoneware was presented, through the Society, to the Southampton Art Gallery.

To download the full Contemporary Art Society Report 1938-39 as a pdf click here


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