Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Stanley Lewis (1905 - 2009)   BIOGRAPHY

The Welsh Dresser, 1955
Framed (ref: 2929)
Oil on canvas, 36 x 22 in. (92 x 56 cm.)


Provenance: from the artist's own collection.

Exhibited: Royal Academy 1955 (158); Arts Council of great Britain Welsh Committee, 4th Open Exhibition of Contemporary Welsh Painting and Sculpture 1957,  National Museum of Wales Cardiff, (no. 5); The Unknown Artist: Stanley Lewis and his contemporaries, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum, 12th June - 5th September

Stanley was fascinated by Flemish 17th century painting, especially Rembrandt and Jan Steen, and visited Holland several times. 

The joint of ham in this painting was Sally, a family pet pig, who ran riot around the one acre garden at Orchard House in Llanstephan, until she terrorized and bit Mr Rice the Postman and had to be slaughtered.

The composition - a dresser in the corner of the huge farmhouse kitchen at Orchard House - was painted at the suggestion of Min – “The vast Welsh dresser was so big it must have been constructed for the house in the room.  It was colossal.  Walking and observing it I thought, "yes Min is right, it would make a good picture" and so I bought my first canvas and it was the first painting I did at Orchard House.‘. I placed Jennifer's beloved black doll, Sambo, on the old Welsh settle and placed the Staffordshire dog, which I still own, near the dish of eggs that came from my own flock of chickens.  I was so amused when I saw it at the Royal Academy and saw Sally our wonderful pig next to the Queen's official portrait.  I must say I thoroughly enjoyed painting this picture and felt free again, far better than stripping old wallpaper and plaster patching and painting Orchard house's enormous rooms.

Stanley Lewis (1905 - 2009)

Painter, teacher and museum curator, born in Cardiff. He attended Newport College of Art, 1923-6, and the Royal College of Art, 1926-30, teaching at Newport College in the 193os. After war service he became principal of Carmarthen School of Art for 22 years from 1946, then retired and with his wife founded the Pram and Toy Museum at Beckington, Somerset. He illustrated newspaper articles by his wife Min Lewis and her book Laugharne and Dylan Thomas, in 1967, and had one-man shows at various Laugharne Festivals. Showed for many years with Gwent Art Society, SWG and elsewhere and with Michael Ayrton and Enzo Plazzotta shared a three-man show at Bruton Gallery, Somerset. Newport Museum and Art Gallery holds his work. Lewis' show War Images there in 2003 was based on a large unfinished World War II painting and preparatory draw¬ings which the artist donated to the collection. Stanley Lewis (1905-2009) was reluctant to sell his art during his life-time. He kept all his major works. He later gave some to museums. He turned down offers from galleries, preferring to work without constraints, choosing to earn a much needed regular income through teaching (over 10 years at Newport School of Art and 22 years as Principal of Carmarthen School of Art). Stanley’s art has period charm. It occupies a backwater (rather than the mainstream) of British Art - this is the unmapped territory that art historians will increasingly look at as accounts of 20th Century British Art are revised. His work is highly distinctive and he remained faithful throughout his life to a graphic and stylised manner developed early on in his career. Perhaps the most enduring aspect of his legacy is the remarkable cycle of paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy celebrating Welsh subjects: The Welsh Dress, The Welsh Mole Catcher, The Welsh Farmer, and The Welsh Dresser. There is arguably no other series of genre paintings in British Art which capture so evocatively Welsh identity. Stanley also strongly identified with the land: on the one hand his calling to art was a vocation; on the other his approach was disarmingly unpretentious: ‘I must admit instinct has kept me on the straight-and-narrow path to carry on working my art into what I am: I am a farmer’s son and I have never craved to be in any one else’s shoes.’ Stanley produced little in the way of major paintings during the last decades of the 20th century, though he did continue to draw, (often reworking earlier drawings), and increasingly put his energy into producing and publishing his book illustrations. In his 101st year, in 2006, Stanley published a last edition of drawings under the title: Adventures in Animal Town, using computer software (Photoshop) to add colour to the remarkable images which half a decade earlier, in black and white, had graced the pages of the South Wales Evening Post. (Fig. 2) Stanley first contacted Liss Fine Art (by email!), aged 101, wanting to know what had happened to his former mentors Thomas Monnington and A.K. Lawrence. Stanley’s career spanned a large part of the 20th century. Yet the fruit of his labour was never publicly exhibited. This is the first ever exhibition of his work. Stanley put his longevity down to cigars, whisky and Michelangelo. He took great pleasure in helping prepare the notes in this catalogue. Recalling events from between 50 and 90 years ago it is remarkable how accurate his memory proved to be. It is sad that Stanley is not alive to see this exhibition. Asked, age 103, if he was finally ready for his first ever show, or whether he would like a little more time to prepare, he inhaled gently on his cigar and, with a puff of smoke and a faint chuckle, said: ‘I think I am ready’. The day before he died he asked Jenni his daughter to type up his final wishes: ‘… And when my exhibition is up and running, open a good bottle of champagne and celebrate and think of me. No doubt I will be there in spirit to keep an eye on things.’ Link to full catalogue :

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