Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

John Armstrong (1893-1973)   BIOGRAPHY

Design for Telecinema Mural, South Bank, 1951
Framed (ref: 5227)

Oil on board
40.5 x 76.2 cm (16 x 30 in.)


Provenance: The Artist’s Estate
Literature: Andrew Lambirth, John Armstrong, Philip Wilson Publishers, 2009, pp.198-99; British Murals and Decorative Painting 1920-1960, Sansom & Co, 2013, pp.276-289

At the end of the war, Armstrong moved down to Cornwall, to Lamorna, while retaining his working contacts in London. Various design projects helped to keep him solvent and then in 1951 came a commission for a mural for the Festival of Britain, that much-trumpeted ‘tonic to the nation’. Armstrong was asked to compose a mural for the foyer of the Telecinema, one of the buildings devoted to the moving image in
the Television piazza on the South Bank.
With his extensive experience as a designer for film, Armstrong was the obvious choice. The Telecinema became the first National Film Theatre but was later demolished when the lease on the site expired.
Armstrong’s mural disappeared, presumably destroyed. (Andrew
Lambirth, British Murals & Decorative Painting 1920-1960, Sansom & Co, p.283)

John Armstrong (1893-1973)

Painter of imaginative and classical subjects in oil, tempera and gouache; mural painter; designer of film and stage sets; book illustrator and advertising designer. He was born in Hastings, Sussex. After Oxford University, Armstrong studied at St John's Wood School of Art, 1913-14, then after service in the Army in World War I returned to St John's Wood briefly. He held his first one-man show at the Leicester Galleries in 1928. In 1933 he became a member of Unit One, after which his work took on a surrealist character. In the 1930s Armstrong worked as a designer for theatre and film, including the first performance of the ballet Façade and several films made by Sir Alexander Korda. He also did work for Shell-Mex and ICI. During World War II Armstrong was an Official War Artist. For the Festival of Britain 1951, he was commissioned to produce The Storm, and exhibited extensively at the RA from that year. He painted a ceiling for the Council Chamber, Bristol, in 1955 and six years later a mural for the Royal Marsden Hospital, at Sutton, Surrey. Armstrong had strong left-wing political convictions and from the time of the Spanish Civil War, when he painted Pro Patria, his pictures occasionally reflected his views. Symbolism is also a feature of his work. Armstrong's pictures are fastidiously painted in muted colours and reflect his own dry wit and gentle nature. Along with John Banting, he is one of only a handful of British artists whose oeuvre can be correctly described as surrealist. The RA held a memorial exhibition in 1975. He lived in London.

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