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Alban F Atkins RA
Modernist Watercolour On Paper, Trees At Buckfast Abbey

1963

About the Item

Early 1960s work on paper of a group of trees at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England, by Alban Atkins. Signed bottom left, titled and dated to the reverse. There is also a collection or accession number to the backboard. Atkins has captured the sculptural nature of the tree trunks as they have grown in the landscape giving the work a feeling of living, writhing things as well as an abstract feel in the composition. Atkins was one of the group of important artists chosen and commissioned by Sir Kenneth Clarke in the 1940s for the 'Recording Britain' project. The scheme was known as 'Recording the changing face of Britain' and was established by Sir Kenneth Clark, then the director of the National Gallery. It ran alongside the official War Artists' Scheme, which he also initiated. Clark was inspired by several motives: at the outbreak of war in 1939, there was a concern to document the British landscape in the face of the imminent threat of bomb damage, invasion, and loss caused by the operations of war. This was allied to an anxiety about changes to the landscape already underway, such as the rapid growth of cities, road building and housing developments, the decline of rural ways of life and industries, and new agricultural practices, which together contributed to the idea of a 'vanishing Britain'. Clark also wanted to help artists, and the traditional forms of British art such as watercolour painting, to survive during the uncertain conditions of wartime. He in turn was inspired by America's Federal Arts Project which was designed to give artists employment during the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1940 the Committee for the Employment of Artists in Wartime, part of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, launched a scheme to employ artists to record the home front in Britain, funded by a grant from the Pilgrim Trust. It ran until 1943 and some of the country's finest watercolour painters, such as John Piper, Sir William Russell Flint and Rowland Hilder, were commissioned to make paintings and drawings of buildings, scenes, and places which captured a sense of national identity. Their subjects were typically English: market towns and villages, churches and country estates, rural landscapes and industries, rivers and wild places, monuments and ruins. Northern Ireland was not covered, only four Welsh counties were included, and a separate scheme covered Scotland. Over 1500 works were eventually produced by 97 artists, of whom 63 were specially commissioned. At the time the collection had a propaganda role, intended to boost national morale by celebrating Britain's landscapes and heritage. Three exhibitions were held during the war at the National Gallery, and pictures from the collection were sent on touring exhibitions and to galleries all around the country. After the war, the whole collection was given to the V&A by the Pilgrim Trust in 1949, and it was documented in a four volume catalogue published between 1946 and 1949. For many years the majority of the collection was on loan to councils and record offices in each county, until recalled by the V&A around 1990. The pictures now form a memorial to the war effort, and a unique record of their time. Atkins works are held in National galleries and private collections worldwide.
  • Creator:
    Alban F Atkins RA
  • Creation Year:
    1963
  • Dimensions:
    Height: 30.75 in (78.11 cm)Width: 23.25 in (59.06 cm)Depth: 1.5 in (3.81 cm)
  • Medium:
  • Movement & Style:
  • Period:
  • Condition:
    Good overall condition, stable as framed. Some scuffing and tearing to the paper, see photo. The work is currently glazed but will be shipped without the glass.
  • Gallery Location:
    Cotignac, FR
  • Reference Number:
    Seller: LG1stDibs: LU143029547482
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