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Entrance to The Fine Art Society | Courtesy of The Fine Art Society
Entrance to The Fine Art Society | Courtesy of The Fine Art Society

Look Inside Counterpart: Modern Realism 1910-1950

Picture of Maria Anna Cynkier
Updated: 17 June 2016
Founded in 1876, The Fine Art Society, is one of the most renowned commercial art galleries in the UK, specialising in modern and contemporary British art and design. Having hosted groundbreaking solo exhibitions including James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s in 1880, and more recently Ghosts: How We Live in the Future in 2015, the gallery once again presents an outstanding exhibition featuring the most celebrated realist painters from the first half of the 20th century. 

 

Within the exhibition Counterpoint: Modern Realism 1910-1950, over 40 artworks of different artists active in the first half of the 20th century are featured, focusing on the various styles in which the British realist painters worked. Further questioning the meaning of a ‘realist’ artist and his place in modern society. A partial answer to this question lies in the variety of presented artworks. Even among the same genres, especially portraits, it is possible to distinguish between different expressions of modernity in artworks.

The New Bond Street building | Courtesy of Fine Art Society

The New Bond Street building | Courtesy of Fine Art Society

Among the works, depictions of high-society members represent one group. Gerald Brockhurst’s  A Woman in Black and Ambrose McEvoy’s A Society Beauty were notable and represented very different ways of dealing with portraiture. Blockhurst, who is not only a painter, but also an etcher and his idealised, highly finished technique and no attempt to penetrate his sitters’ characters may partially result from this profession. On the contrary, McEvoy’s loose brushstrokes, giving more of an impression of the painting, look back to the technique of the 17th century Spanish masters, but still he surpasses his times with the presentation of the sitter. The Counterpoint: Modern Realism 1910-1950 did not lack many other inspiring comparisons. 

Gerald Brockhurst, Woman in Black, c. 1935 | Courtesy of Fine Art Society

Gerald Brockhurst, Woman in Black, c. 1935 | Courtesy of Fine Art Society

Apart from that, the exhibition addressed the issue of the construction of new identity in society at the beginning of the 20th century, heavily influenced by the industrial development. This was reflected in more abstract works by British artists, including paintings by artists such as Julian Trevelyan – who was a member of the English Surrealist Society and John Duncan Fergusson, inspired by French impressionists and fauvists.

Julian Trevelyan, London Scene, 1935 | Courtesy of Fine Art Society

Julian Trevelyan, London Scene, 1935 | Courtesy of Fine Art Society

Counterpoint: Modern Realism 1910-1950 marked a very important step in the understanding of what ‘realist’ and ‘modern’ mean to the contemporary viewer and juxtaposed our understanding of modernity with the one of early 20th century artist. Instead of presenting a narrative, linear development of modern art, the exhibition presents an alternative history created by individuals.

Richard Eurich, Clifford's Tower, York, 1939 | Courtesy of Fine Art Society

Richard Eurich, Clifford’s Tower, York, 1939 | Courtesy of Fine Art Society

The Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street, London W1S

By Maria Anna Cynkier