Contemporary Art Society Report 1949-50

27 July 2015
Cover for the Contemporary Art Society Report 1949-50
Cover for the Contemporary Art Society Report 1949-50

Speech by the Chairman

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I stand before you in a white sheet, and in a place to which I have no right. My first confession-and it is one which I hope I can make without incurring suspicion of the complaint known as le snobisme de I’age-is that I am 78 years and five days old; and thereby hangs the tale; for the Companies Act of 1948 lays down that no Director of a Company who reaches the age of 70 is eligible for re-election without the shareholders’ consent, given en connais­ sance de cause, and it is the sad fact that at the Annual General Meeting the year before last, when I resigned from the Committee and you were kind enough to re-elect me, this no doubt wise and salutary provision was overlooked , and I accepted the honour with­ out telling you how old I was; and the consequence is that so far from being your Chairman I am not even a member of the Commit­tee, so that unless and until you pass the Resolution which in a moment I shall ask Mr. Rothenstein to move, I have no locus standi in this room except as a subscriber. Personally , I feel that I have been your Chairman for long enough if not too long, and if you are as tired of hearing the same speech year after year as I am of making it, I hope you will vote accordingly without any fear of hurting my feelings, which would be those of relief:

(At this point Mr. John Rothenstein moved the following Resolution:-“That Sir Edward Marsh who is 78 years of age be appointed a member of the Committee notwithstanding his age”,and on its being carried Sir Edward, now Chairman once more, proceed­ed with his discourse.)

Thank you very much. Now for the old speech, which I will begin by announcing a singular coincidence. The Christian Era, in spite of its long  start, has just  been  eaught  up  by  the membership  of  our Society! The present Annus Domini is 1950, you all know that; but it may be a pleasant surprise to hear that the number of our subscribers has reached precisely the same figure. I will not claim any subtle significance for this arithmetical freak, but it is gratifying to know it represents an increase of 200 in the present year, which brings us to a point exactly half-way between six and seven times the miserable 300 which was all that we could reckon five years ago in 1945. We are now well in view of the round and even portly figure of 2000, and we may well hope that when the Era reaches that total our posterity may be able to look down on it from a height.

An encouraging item in the increase is an addition of five to the subscribing galleries, which now number 75.

The outstanding event of the year was the exhibition called The Private Collector, consisting of works owned by our members, for which the Tate Board generously lent us five rooms for four weeks in March and April. The first intention was that the pictures should be chosen by a small committee, but for various reasons which may be easily guessed at this plan didn’t work, and the choice was in the main entrusted to Mr. Robin Ironside, who carried out his task with good judgment and great energy. Our warmest thanks are due both to him and to the members who so liberally lent their treasures. I think I may say that the show did us a great deal of good . The critics were most complimentary, and the public came crowding in. The average attendance at the Tate for four ordinary weeks is about 20,000. We drew 75,000, which beat the Vienna Art Treasures for the same period by 7000, and was only beaten by the Van Goghs, which attracted 130,000 visitors in four weeks. The exhibition was launched with an evening party, which everyone seemed to enjoy very much .

This was not the only junketing. The Directors of the Leicester Galleries kindly entertained us at a sherry party for a preview of the Howard  Bliss  Collection: there  was an evening reception  at the Soane Museum  at which Mr. John  Summerson gave a delightful discourse; Mr. and Mrs. Sainsbury threw open their very individual collection of sculpture,modern primitive and oriental, and of modern paintings and drawings; and Messrs. Roland, Browse and Delbanco invited us to a preview of their Bonnards. Last month Sir Owen Morshead showed some of our members round the Royal Library at Windsor; and on the same day there was a visit to the Provost’s Lodge at Eton to see the eighteenth and nineteenth-century portraits, and an inspection of Major  E. 0. Kay’s collection  of pictures by Orcagna,  Rembrandt,  Monet,  Sickert, John, Spencer, and others. The last outing was one of the most successful we have ever had, and has produced a gratifying fan-mail. A party of about 215 went down  to Wiltshire  and were shown  the beauties  of  Laycock  by Mr. E. C. Barnes. They then went on to Corsham, where Lord and Lady Methuen most kindly entertained them to luncheon, and they were privileged to see the fine collection of pictures and theestablish­ ment of the Bath Academy, which occupies part of the house. The proceedings ended with a drive round the sights of Bath.

A further interesting event was the unveiling of the group of Three Standing Figures by Henry Moore, which has been placed in a very becoming position by the side of a lake in Battersea Park. It fell to me to make the presentation to the London County Council, and I thought it would not be consonant with the dignity of the occasion to tell the company that although the figures were gift-horses Iwoundn’t ask them not to look them in the mouth, because they hadn’t any; but I hope that within these four walls I may allow myself this harmless pleasantry without unseemliness.

I should like to say a word about the purchases made in the last two years,when the buyer!? were Mr.Ironside and Lord Methuen. In The Private Collector exhibition, the works shown were divided into two sections, one of which l may roughly call the “traditional” and the other the “progressive.. (though of course in every work of art these two elements cannot fail to be combined, but in different proportion s); and the same distinction may be drawn between the choices made by the two buyers. Among lovers of art there are two factions, the Left and the Right; and among the more zealous partisans in each there may be those who will look upon Mr. Ironside’s pictures as the sheep and Lord Methuen’s as the goats and vice versa. If I might speak for a moment of my own predilections, I would say that l am more interested in a picture for what it is in itself than for exemplifying a tendency one way or the other, and that although as becomes my years I incline to the “traditiona l” side, I can often, though I admit not always, find pleasure in the opposite camp. The point I want to make is that to adapt the words of the old epigram the Society will do well by continuing to ladle its butter into alternate tubs, and to buy what is good in both the markets. So if any of our members feel strongly about either the reckless iconoclasm of the advance guard or the deplorable stuffiness of the old fogies, they will recognise that both sides have claims which cannot be neglected if theSociety is to present a balanced conspectus of the contemporary field.

We have had a great accession of strength in Mr. Howard Bliss’s noble loan of his collection, which has been divided into small groups and lent out among ten provincial galleries till the end of the year, after which it will go on to others. Three of the pictures have been lent not to a gallery but to the Reading Christian Council. The Society has presented paintings to Toronto, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart, and Cape Town, and has lent groups of pictures to Scar­ borough and Newark. An interesting new departure is a loan to the Architectural Association, to be displayed in their school with a view to inspiring the students with interest in contemporary painting.

It remains to decide on the composition of the Committee for the coming year. We have at last been compelled to accept with great regret the resignation of Lord Crawford, whose heavy avocations in Scotland have for some time prevented him from taking part in our activities. Two other members, Mrs. Cazalet-Keir and Sir Kenneth Clark, retire in the normal course, but they are eligible for re-election, and as neither of them has yet reached the fatal age of 70 or anything like it, we hope you will agree to this without misgiving, and also to the nomination of Mr. Howard Bliss, who is already our benefactor, as a new member, and of Sir Phili p Hendy as Buyer for the year.

You will scarcely expect me to sit down without harping once more on the most monotonous of all my themes-the appeal for funds. The annual subscription of one guinea has remained unaltered since the Society was founded forty years ago; but although we practise the strictest economy, our expenses, like everyone else’s, are going up by leaps and bounds, and it would be all to the good if anybody who is in the unusual position of having any cash to spare would follow the example already set by several members of mking from time to time a contribution, however small, to the Foreign Fund or the Fund for Prints and Drawings.

I can’t sit down without a word on one more of my eternal themes -and a more pleasant one, since although to receive may be less blessed than to give, it is certainly more so than to ask-I mean of course the inexhausti ble goodwill and generosity of the Tate. Has it ever occurred to you to wonder what on earth we should do without the privilege of using these rooms for our work? All our increased subscriptions would go on rent and rates, and we should be able to buy no more pictures than in 1945!

0 Tate! thy name
Shall be the copious matter of my song
Henceforth, nor ever shall my harp forget
Thy praise.

Sir Edward Marsh
Chairman, Contemporary Art Society

At the Annual General Meeting held at the Tate Gallery at 5-30 p.m. on Thursday November 23, 1950.

Purchases by the Society

Paintings and Sculpture
By the Foreign Fund

(Sir Kenneth Clark, Sir Colin Anderson, Raymond Mortimer, Edward le Bas)

Andre Masson, Les Terres Rouges et la Montagne St. Victoire, oil
Raymond LeGueult, Bocage, oil
Edouard Pignon, Le Mineur, oil

In 1949-50 by Mr. Robin Ironside
Francis Bacon, Laughing Man, oil
E. Box, The Beach, oil
John Craxton, Water Pot in a Window, gouache
John Craxton, Girl in a White Scarf, oil
John Craxton, Still Life with Sea Urchin, oil
David Jones, Flowerpiece, Watercolour and crayon
Margaret Kaye, Lion in the Forest, Fabric collage
Winifred Nicholson, Primula Stellata, oil
F.E. McWilliam, Man and Wife, Concrete
F.E. McWilliam, The Stag, Plastic, wood
Victor Pasmore, Triangular Motif in Pink and Yellow, oil on paper
Ceri Richards, St. Cecilia, oil
Brian Robb, Odalisque, oil
Geald Wylde, Composition, oil

In 1950 by Lord Methuen
Stephen Bone, Westminster, oil
B. A. R. Carter, The Welsh Chapel, oil
Robin Darwin, The Empress Hall, oil
Bernard Dunstan, Dawn, oil
Bernard Dunstan, Interior, oil
Mary Fedden, Sicilian Flowers, oil
Sylvia Gosse, Breton Woman, oil
Dorothy Larcher, Iris and Rose, oil
Bateson Mason, The Azores, watercolour
Bernard Meninsky, The Purple Dress, oil
Bernard Meninsky, Seashore, oil
Bernard Meninsky, Madonna and Child, oil
Alberto Morocco, Low Tide, oil
Charles McCall, Maquillage, oil
John Piper, Portland Bill, oil
H. E. Du Plessis, Churchill, Oxon, oil
Margaret Fisher Prout, Stapleton Church, oil
Anne Estelle Rice, Giselle, oil
Ceri Richards, Girl at the Piano, oil
Maurice De Sausmarez, Kate Reclining, oil
Thomas William Ward, Putney Reach, Watercolour

Prints and Drawings
In 1949 by Mr. Raymond Mortimer
Vanessa Bell, Roses, Lithograph
Duncan Grant, Hawk, Lithograph
Caroline Lucas, Marine Square, Lithograph
Claude Rogers, View of Shot Tower, Lithograph
Adrian Ryan, Pollarded Trees, Monotype
Humphrey Spender, Flower Decoration, Lithograph
Graham Sutherland, Maize, Lithograph

In 1949-50 by Mr. Robin Ironside
John Craxton, Standing Figure, Conte crayon
Lucian Freud, Narcissus, Pen drawing
Pablo Picasso, Bull with Grey Horns
Pablo Picasso, The Dove

In 1950 by Lord Methuen
Barbara Hepworth, Nudes, Drawing
Nigel Lambourne, The Waitress: Trudy Fallada, Drawing
Ronald Searle, Martinique Dancers, Monparnasse, Drawing

Gifts from the Society in 1950
To Australia
National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Leonard Appelbee, Whiting
Duncan Grant, Newhaven Cliffs, Oil
James Pryde, The Ladder, Oil

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart
George Clausen, Harvest Moon, oil
Carel Weight, Sketching on the Roof, Oil

The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Victor Pasmore, Head of a Man, oil

To Canada
The Art Gallery of Toronto
Henri Matisse, Odalisque, Lithograph
Henry Moore, Group of Shelterers, Coloured drawing

To South Africa
The South African National Gallery, Capetown
Paul Nash, Whiteleaf Cross, oil

To download the full Contemporary Art Society Report 1949-50 as a pdf click here

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