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, was published by John Blake on April 2nd, 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.

book cover of Queer Saint - the cultured life of Peter Watson

Without Peter Watson’s patronage, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud might have failed before they ever began. His tastes shaped and changed the course of twentieth century art, and he was a founder of the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

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

It also details his relationships with many of the leading artists of his day, as well as exploring his sophisticated personality.

The premier doyen of the gay scene, Watson cut a dash through the 30s Berlin cabaret, pre-war Paris, English high society and the golden boulevards of Hollywood before his mysterious and tragic death. Read More…

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

In February 2013 I was invited to participate in a very interesting conference, at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, 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.

‘Queer Saint': Reviews and Interviews

Opening Doors

Adrian Clark will give a talk to Opening Doors on Tuesday 11th August, from 7pm to 9pm.

Venue: Henderson Court Resource Centre, 102 Fitzjohn’s Ave, London NW3 6NS (entrance on Prince Arthur Rd) - 10 minutes' walk from Hampstead tube station.

Link to Opening Doors London Events listings.

ICA Culture Now Interview

On 10th April, Adrian Clark discussed the life and work of Peter Watson with Charlie Porter. Watch the full interview on this site's page on Peter Watson.

You can also watch the interview on the ICA's web site.

Links to Reviews

The Independent 29 April 2015

quote from review in The Independent

The Spectator, 23 May 2015

link to review in The Spectator

Spiked magazine, May 2015

link to review in Spiked magazine

Order via Amazon

Order via Waterstones

reviews of Queer Saint - the cultured life of Peter Watson

Colquhoun-Macbryde Exhibition

link to colquhoun macbryde exhibition pageScottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, 22 November 2014 to 24 May 2015.

This is the first opportunity to see a large quantity of the work of Robert Colquhoun and Robert Macbryde.

The show has been brilliantly assembled by Patrick Elliott, Senior Curator at the SNGMA. I have assisted with the catalogue, contributing to two of the four chapters. Learn More

Latest blog posts

  • Peter Watson and Massimo Campigli
  • When the Ensatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) raided Watson’s flat at 44 Rue du Bac on 9th December 1940, one of the pictures that subsequently found its way to the repository of stolen art at the Jeu de Paume was by Campigli. The Germans gave it the title “Ruckenfigur einer Frau [Read More…]

  • George Campbell and the Belfast Boys
  • Very pleased to receive a copy of Karen Reihill’s latest work, this time focussed on the fascinating Irish artist, George Campbell. Previously Karen has written a tremendous book on Gerard Dillon. These books are very welcome, as they give some proper weight to these important artists. Although he [Read More…]

  • John Craxton in Dorset
  • A new show has opened at the Museum in Dorchester of Craxton’s pictures of Dorset. I have lent a picture of the ruined Knowlton Church, inscribed by the artist to the opthalmic surgeon, Pat Trevor-Roper, brother of the academic Hugh. These early, pre-Greece pictures by the young artist are very [Read More…]

  • Jean Dubuffet: Soul of the Underground
  • At MOMA last week, I caught the above show on the 3rd floor, in the Drawing Galleries. It is a varied show of smaller pieces in various media. I had never seen a group of Dubuffet pieces together and, rather against my expectations, found them fascinating. A very [Read More…]

  • Peter Watson and Andre Bauchant
  • In the Tate Archive today looking at the files of ICA exhibitions held whilst Watson was actively involved I came across a loan by him of a picture by Andre Bauchant (1873-1958). I hadn’t heard of him before (nor of the fact that Watson owned a picture by [Read More…]