Anthony Fry at the Holburne, Bath

Chris Stephens from Tate Britain took over at the Holburne last year and this exciting show is an example of how he intends to develop aspects of this Bath gallery, which is situated  at the end of the extraordinary Great Pulteney Street.

It is not easy to see a collection of Fry’s pictures ; there haven’t been many shows and examples of the work trickle only occasionally through the sale rooms, but never in any quantity. So it is a treat to see a carefully constructed group of his pictures, covering in a couple of small galleries a number of aspects of his long, if sporadic, painting career.

He presumably had enough money not to need to live off his painting output. This impression is reinforced by there having been a long period when it is said he gave up painting altogether. Such a luxury does not always result in successful pictures; one only has to think of the self-indulgence of some of Prunella Clough’s later work, after such promising beginnings in the 1940s. She seems not to have needed to sell anything because of family money.

Fry, on the evidence of this show, avoided complacency. He experimented as he moved around subjects and styles. The captions suggest that the fact that he lived in a variety of places in the world for long periods had no effect on his work, but one might query that. It seems to me that his palette must have been influenced by the places he lived in, not to mention the occasional appearance of camels and elephants. His palette reminded me of Craigie Aitchison’s.

So, interesting pictures outside any group or style; yet another 20th century British  artist developing his ideas almost in isolation from any identifiable mainstream influence.

Great things will happen at the Holburne. We should all keep an eye on it.