Gallery

Robert Medley

The Art Stable is delighted to be presenting an exhibition of paintings, drawings and prints by Robert Medley, to whom I gave the last exhibition before he died, almost exactly twenty years ago, when running the Coram Gallery in Bloomsbury. Introduced to Robert by Andrew Lambirth, now art critic of The Spectator, asked if he would like to exhibit at this recently opened gallery, Robert, aged 88 years, said he would, because he ‘liked to be there at the beginning of things’. That open minded willingness to embrace the new gave his work a freshness and vitality which one still feels in his work today. The day before we opened that exhibition, he was given a grand supper at the Royal Academy to celebrate his winning the Charles Woolaston prize. Influential members of the art gallery world gathered to pay their respects to an artist who continually investigated and questioned the artistic process and a man who affected everyone who had the privilege to know him with his warmth, charm and generous spirit.

As a young man Robert met members of the Bloomsbury Group including Vanessa and Clive Bell, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant. Grant was particularly encouraging to Robert as an artist and in the 1920’s, when Robert spent time in Paris, he often went sketching with Grant in the Louvre. In the 1930’s, with the ballet dancer Rupert Doone, Robert became involved with the innovative ‘Group Theatre’, working with W.H.Auden, Christopher Isherwood and Benjamin Britten. After the war, during which he was a camouflage officer based in the Middle East, Robert began to paint again, exhibiting regularly including major retrospectives at the Whitechapel in 1963 and the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford in 1984. He was awarded a CBE in 1982.

“What makes Medley’s work so rewarding and unusual is its dexterity. Dexterity in its strict sense refers to an inborn or acquired skill in dealing with, or being at home with, the tangible. Something close to the fingertips. Dexterity also implies panache, a quality of gesture. One can think of the cast of a master fly-fisherman. The stance of a prodigious violinist. The aim from the shoulder of a champion billiard player. Medley’s paintings have the concentration and elegance of such performances.” John Berger

This exhibition will include several screenprints which Medley made in the late 1970’s illustrating Milton’s ‘Samson Agonistes’ and inspired by the late cut-outs by Matisse, currently showing at Tate Modern. ‘I have always enjoyed reading poets in the contemporary editions. The typography is part of their epoch and the look of the page which we can touch and see is like entering their homes by the front door. It was not until I had completed a number of designs that it dawned on me that the freehand imperfections of paper cutting gave a rough kind of organic vitality that was right for, and perhaps was unconsciously influenced by, the irregularities of C17th popular printing.’

There were two editions of Samson Agonistes, the first group of 16 produced in 1978, measuring 68.5 x 52cm and the second group of 23 in 1981, measuring 51 x 40.5cm.

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Andrew Lambirth, writing in
'The Spectator'
28 June 2014

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Figure & Tree
oil on canvas
36 x 20 cm

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Footballer
oil on canvas
20 x 26 cm

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Mountain Scene
oil on canvas
43 x 53 cm

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Religious Painting
oil on canvas
46 x 43 cm

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Still Life
oil on canvas
46 x 41 cm

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Figure Study
watercolour & pencil
18 x 25 cm

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Two Figures
pencil
20 x 16 cm

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Lying Figure
charcoal
13 x 19 cm

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Three studies for Aeneas carrying his Father
pencil on paper
32 x 23 cm
(taken behind glass)

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Scara Brae
charcoal
61 x 70 cm
photo taken behind glass

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Interior Drawing
pencil on paper
49 x 39 cm
photo taken behind glass

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Street Scene
double drawing
ink on paper
28 x 23 cm (each)
photo taken behind glass

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Figure Asleep
pencil on paper
17 x 23 cm

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Standing Figure
watercolour
25 x 17 cm

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Figures in a Landscape
watercolour
22 x 15 cm

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Such engines to assail and hamper thee
1981, screenprint
51cm x 40.5cm

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The wrack't vessel
1981, screenprint
51cm x 40.5cm

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Samson's Destiny
1981, screenprint
51cm x 40.5cm

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Fame if not double-fac't is double mouthed
1981, screenprint
51cm x 40.5cm

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Frontispiece for 'Samson Agonistes'
1978, screenprint
68.5 x 52 cm

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The Crystalline Stream
1978, screenprint
68.5 x 52 cm
taken behind glass

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The Cutting of Samson's hair
1978, screenprint
68.5 x 52 cm
taken behind glass

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Image of Dagon
1978, screenprint
68.5 x 52 cm

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Harapha. 'Haughty as his pile (high-built)'
1978, screenprint
68.5 x 52 cm

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'A ship in full rig'. Delila
1978, screenprint
68.5 x 52 cm

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'Embattled armies'
1978, screenprint
68.5 x 52 cm

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Tablet for the God of Israel
1978, screenprint
68.5 x 52 cm
taken behind glass

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Image for the fallen state of the Hero
screenprint, 68.5 x 52 cm
taken behind glass

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Sword-players and gymnic artists
screenprint, 68.5 x 52 cm
taken behind glass