I bought a book called ‘Young Artists of Promise’ in a local bookshop, the author was Jack Beddington, the man famous for being Shell’s publicity director.
Beddington was a curious figure in the history of British Art; with his role at Shell Oil he commissioned a set of poster campaigns that were seen nationally in the 1930s. In doing this he presented the people of Britain with modern art, for what was likely to be the first time, this being the days when museums charged admission.
I found looking through the pages of ‘Young Artists of Promise’ there were not only artists I knew, but many others that where unknown to me. It was these ones that were rather challenging to find details on. The artists that didn’t become famous but where full of promise when at art school to me are the most interesting of all.
One of the known artists. Robert Tavener – Sea Urchins. Lithograph.
Below I have selected parts of Beddington’s introduction from the book with a few of the pictures I liked best. It’s both interesting for his loyalty to the artists he used and discovered from the 1930′s and 40′s and his view on both art and artists in the 1950′s.
“When I was first asked to compile this book, I had to allay certain pangs of conscience. I had quite recently written to the Press a letter which had been published complaining that help was needed far more for middle-aged artists, and for artists with established reputations, than for young artists. I felt that the young ones now were getting a better break than they had had for a very long time. There were a great many teaching jobs going; there were lots of little galleries where they could have shows, and there was patronage on a wider scale. The fashion had been set for helping young artists to make their name rather than for helping those who had had success before the war. So the idea of this book seemed something of a betrayal.”
Stephen Crowther – Sunday Morning, Seaton Carew. Oil.
“Before I could make up my mind what to do, I asked a number of my friends, including principals of art schools and others and, on the whole, they all thought that such a book as this might do more good than harm.
I was assured by the publishers that it would probably have considerable circulation outside this country, and that if the artists’ names and addresses were properly recorded at the end of the book, it might help them”.
A list of names, addresses and there the artists trained.
Alfred Daniels – Painted Stall, Palermo. Oil.
“There were practically no cheerful pictures except landscapes. I chose, as far as I could, pictures which I would like to have myself.”
Arlie Panting – Painted Ladies. Oil.
“This brings me to the subject of teachers in art schools. I think that I have more sympathy with them than with any other small section of the community. Their reward can only lie in the success of their pupils. There are certainly no other strong incentives. In a way, they lead dedicated lives. Thousands of young people come to be taught who have no talent at all. At the end of last year there were over 120,000 whole and part-time art students in the United Kingdom. Their teachers for the most part are teaching in order to earn a living. but the others to whom teaching is a vocation must find it, at times, intensely discouraging”.
Arthur H. Taylor – Sea Wall. Oil.
“I have never found that artists are either unpractical or difficult to get on with, or particularly dirty. Some are, but they are very rarely the best ones. If they wear beards, why shouldn’t they? If they like to have strange hats, why shouldn’t they? If you will ignore this and remember that they are probably just as intelligent and just as hard-working and just as anxious to have a happy life as you are, you will probably find them very much easier to get on with. My experience has always been that they are infinitely more adjustable than businessmen”.