Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Charles Mahoney (1903-1968)   BIOGRAPHY

Joy and Sorrow, circa 1933
Framed (ref: 5265)

Oil on paper, laid on board, 

18 x 11 in. (45.8 x 30.5 cm)


Provenance: given by the artist to Geoffrey Rhoades, thence by descent until 201.

The commission to decorate Brockley (now Prendergast) School  in South London, was the result of an appeal by William  Rothenstein, Principal of the RCA, for students to be given the  opportunity to experiment with mural painting.

Mahoney was  invited to organise the scheme at the beginning of 1932. The  school undertook to pay for the materials. William Rothenstein  hoped to find payment for the artists.  In the end, Mahoney’s  payment was only £25 and a silver cigarette case. Situated in the school hall, in five arched-top panels, the subjects of the murals  were taken from Aesop’s Fables. The paintings were executed in oil on to existing plaster. They were opened by Oliver Stanley, Minister of Education in 1936.

Joy and Sorrow illustrates the fable of two sisters who quarrelled as  to which should have precedence. King Minos, as arbitrator,  decreed that they should be linked together and each of them in  turn should tread on the heel of the other. In an essay published  in Country Life (30th April 1987), Alan Powers notes ‘the setting is a  claustrophobic enclosure between brick walls, with watchers on a  tower beyond. The walls and iron gates have that strange  exactness of place that is at the root of English romantic  painting'.

Joy and Sorrow in situ Brockley School in South London (now Prendergast)


Mahoney's composition has similarities to Stanley Spencer's contemporaneous Sandham Chapel murals:

Stanley Spencer 'Convoy Arriving with the Wounded'

Charles Mahoney (1903-1968)

In his memoir Since 50, Men & Memories 1922-1938 (New York,1940, p. 236) the first two names that appear on William Rothenstein list of top Royal College of Art students were Henry Moore and Charles Mahoney - the list continues with the names of luminaries such  as Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, Barnett Freedman Edward Le Bas, and Evelyn Dunbar. The process of reassuring Mahoney's place in 20th century British Art has had several important milestones including the 1975 Ashmolean exhibition, the Liss Fine Art/Fine Art Society touring show (2000) and Mahoney's predominant feature in Tate Britain's The Art of the Garden, (2005) -  but the process of reassessment still has a long way to go.

Painter, muralist, draughtsman and teacher. Born Cyril Mahoney in London - his fellow-student Barnett Freedman re-christened him Charlie at the Royal College of Art, which he attended 1922-6 after a period at Beckenham School of Art under Percy Jowett. Early on, Mahoney established a reputation as a conscientious teacher. He was at the Royal College 1928-53, from 1948-53 as a painting tutor, and was noted there for his concern for academic discipline. His portrait is included in Rodrigo Moynihan's celebrated Teaching Staff of the Painting School at the Royal College of Art, 1949-50. From 1954 to 1963 he taught at the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting and from 1961 to 1968 at the Royal Academy Schools. He painted murals at Morley College 1928-30 with his colleagues Eric Ravillious and Edward Bawden. Unfortunately these murals were destroyed during World War II. The work led to further murals: at Brockley School, Kent, with Evelyn Dunbar; and at Campion Hall Lady Chapel, Oxford. His oil paintings are frequently of a religious nature. He was a skilled botanist, and many of his drawings depict his garden at Wrotham, Kent. He exhibited at NEAC and the RA, being made an RA elect in 1968. He is represented in the Tate Gallery and other public collections. The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, held a memorial exhibition in 1975. Exhibitions were held in 2000 at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, Royal Museum and Art Gallery, Canterbury, and the Fine Art Society plc in association with Liss Fine Art.

See all works by Charles Mahoney