Mid 20th C British art in the City
It used to be possible to walk into a City boardroom and have some chance of seeing an interesting piece by one of the artists covered here. I recall Ivon Hitchens in UBS, all sorts of good things in Barings and Robert Fleming, a varied collection in Simmons and Simmons (courtesy of their noted art collector partner, Stuart Evans) and so on. Not that long ago I walked into a meeting room in Cazenove in Moorgate and found myself face to face with the largest Robert Macbryde picture I have ever seen. I wondered at the time if it could have been the lost work he did for the Arts Council 1951 exhibition “60 for ’51”, which he submitted and then didn’t bother to collect at the end of the show. Where that picture is now that Cazenove has been subsumed into JP Morgan I have no idea.
Whilst much of the above has gone from the City, there is one place accessible to the general public in the City which has at least the work of one of the great names: Matthew Smith. When he died in 1959, the contents of his studio passed to Mary Keene. She then left a very large number of his works to The Guildhall Art Gallery (or maybe they were left to the City?). Now one can always see at least a selection of these pictures on the walls. Currently there are 2 rooms showing a selection of his pictures of his female friends. Some are astonishing close to. I recommend a study of Patricia Neal from 1954. The use of colour is typically Smith and not typically British. There is also a portrait of Josephine Lowry-Corry, niece of the novelist Henry Green. He was a friend of Smith’s, even contributing a few words to the catalogue for the Tate retrospective in 1953.