Friday, 10 February 2017

Rex Whistler at Mottisfont

I went to see the Rex Whistler exhibition at Mottisfont this week. Not a huge fan but thought it might be interesting... it really was - well worth a visit.

There is a lot of work on display which demonstrates his great versatility. He did just about everything he could with his artistic talents, from book illustration and marketing posters to theatre set design and murals. It seems that he tends to be regarded as a designer / craftsman more than an artist... maybe that's because for most of his short life (killed in Normandy in 1944 at the age of 39), he needed to make money so presumably took whatever commercial work he could get. That, I think, inevitably gets in the way of making art for art's sake and sets him apart as far as the 'fine art establishment' is concerned. Also, despite being an exceptional draughtsman, his painting skills were possibly lacking a bit - though probably, he would have improved these had he lived longer.

Whistler seemed to occupy a rather uncomfortable position socially. He mixed with wealthy and aristocratic people though his own background was rather more humble. Maybe difficult for us to understand the implications of this today...

What impressed me the most was his dedication and complete absorption with making images. He always carried sketchbook, pens, pencils, inks around with him and drew constantly, wherever he was. Apparently, he even had a metal box welded to the back of his tank when in the army so he could keep his art materials to hand. That's dedication! 

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