Art commentator and critic Adrian Clark

I am an active writer and commentator on art, and art history.

My particular passion lies in British and Irish artists of the mid-20th century. Having started as a collector, my fascination led on to research and writing.

A City lawyer by profession and a historian by training, I seek to bring to bear these disciplines in my analysis. I have written extensively in The British Art Journal, reviewing exhibitions and books, with some longer articles involving original research. This website reproduces many of the reviews, as well as summaries of the longer articles.

Books

My first book, British and Irish Art 1945-1951 From War to Festival, was published in 2010, and a biography of Peter Watson, written with Jeremy Dronfield, will be published by John Blake in 2015.

Queer Saint: The Cultured Life of Peter Watson

Peter Watson (1908-1956) supported a whole range of British artists financially and in other ways. He funded the creation of the cultural journal, Horizon, and helped to create the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He also built up an extremely wide ranging collection of art, by many of the great 20th century masters, and also the leading British artists of the time.

Whilst Watson gets frequent mentions in surveys of the cultural scene, there has been no book about him. My purpose in writing a full biography is to seek to place his varied life and achievements into their proper context.

For inquiries, please contact agents, Andrew Lownie Literary Agency, or please click on this link if you would like to register for pre-publication information.

British and Irish Art 1945-1951: From War to Festival

British and Irish Art 1945-1951

Published in 2010, this book radically re-examines a crucial period of modern British and Irish art, from a historical viewpoint.

By studying the intricate mechanisms whereby artists turned oil on canvas into money – or not – the book explains how artists’ reputations were made or broken. Individual artists discussed include Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Graham Sutherland, Gerard Dillon, Robert Colquhoun, Paul Nash and many more.

To purchase or inquire, CLICK for Paul Holberton (publishers)

Other Projects

Other projects have included a commission for the Royal Academy, and ongoing gathering of material about AJL McDonnell, with a view to writing a study of him.

AJL McDonnell

AJL McDonnell was the London representative for the Felton Bequest for some years after the War, from 1947 to his death in 1964. The Felton Bequest was established in the early years of the 20th Century by Alfred Felton “to support culture and the community”, with half the funding supporting charities in the State of Victoria in Australia. The initial capital was the enormous sum of £378,000, which meant that its purchasing power in the 20th C art world has been prodigious. McDonnell worked closely with Sir Kenneth (later Lord) Clark to buy sensational works of art in the London market. These works, which included Old Masters and modern works, then passed to the National Gallery of Victoria.

McDonnell’s art market activities are complementary to my studies of that market in my first book. I shall very much welcome contact from those with an interest in him.

The Art Contributions to Horizon

1st Feb 2013, Sotheby’s Institute of Art

I was invited to participate in a very interesting conference, entitled The Art Press in the Twentieth Century, focussing on the period 1930-1969.

At the heart of Horizon Magazine’s artistic output were the decisions taken by Peter Watson, whose tremendous impact on the British art world of the mid-20th century is only now beginning to be recognised.

A transcript of my lecture, The art contributions to Horizon (1940–50), is available on request.

Recent Review

  • John Aldridge RA at The Fry Art Gallery Saffron Walden
  • The show at the Fry – that most wonderful of small galleries – was too small to make many substantive points in any debate as to Aldridge’s proper status. Whilst ahead of most artists of his time, he was nowhere near the top group, and as such, is likely to remain amongst the footsoldiers of 20th Century British art. An excellent little catalogue for the exhibition included a fine essay by local art historian, Peter Donovan. I would urge anyone within reach of Saffron Walden to visit and support the Fry Art Gallery.

Latest blog posts

  • Portraits of Sir George Watson
  • Peter Watson’s money came entirely from the successful business efforts of his father, Sir George, who helped to create and develop Maypole Dairies. Until its decline as an independent company in the 1920s, this business was astonishingly successful and profitable. On the back of the money generated by Maypole, [Read More...]

  • Charles Cundall at Lord’s
  • Lord’s moves round its large collection of cricketing pictures and there has appeared in the Long Room a large oil by Charles Cundall (1890-1971). This shows the Second Test against the Australians at Lord’s in June 1938 from the top of G Stand. It is a marvellous depiction of the [Read More...]

  • Lucian Freud and John Craxton’s drawings of Peter Watson at Christie’s
  • On 25th June,2014, Christie’s is holding an evening sale of Modern British and Irish Art at King Street. I have contributed a total of approximately 1,000 words to two catalogue entries, on the subject of Peter Watson. Lot 2 is a portrait drawing of Watson by Freud and [Read More...]

  • The History of the ICA
  • Last night I attended a launch of an excellent new book on the early history of the ICA. The book was largely written by Anne Massey and covers the years from its post-War beginnings up to when it moved from Dover Street to the Mall in 1968. Peter Watson [Read More...]

  • John Piper Stained Glass
  • In St Margaret’s, Westminster yesterday, we noticed the rather subdued modern stained glass in the South Aisle. It turns out that it was put there in 1966 to replace glass destroyed by bombing in the War. Designed by Piper, it was made by that great glass-maker, Patrick Reyntiens.

  • The ICA
  • There is a new book out about the early years of the ICA, which Peter Watson helped to create: “The ICA 1946-1968″ By Gregor Muir and Anne Massey. The book contains a useful chronology,  showing the amazing variety of cultural projects promoted by the ICA from its earliest years. It [Read More...]

  • Oliver Messel
  • At the Opera House last night to see Sleeping Beauty, I noticed a lovely pastel and chalk drawing of the legendary Russian ballet dancer, Galina Ulanova, by Oliver Messel. It is hanging, presumably temporarily, in the passage from the main entrance towards the cloakroom area. Messel’s designs for [Read More...]