George Hooper (1917-1994), An Unlikely Fauve Paintings and Collages from the 1960s – 1980s 15 – 28 November

17th October 2014

This exhibition reassesses the work of George Hooper who was widely acclaimed in his lifetime, and whose work is in the collections of the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.  It brings together a vibrant group of paintings and collages from the last few decades of his life when Hooper’s oeuvre blossomed into a riot of dynamic colour and activity seemingly influenced by Fauvism. It also marks the period of his blossoming friendship with Duncan Grant, the influence of Charleston and of the artist Ceri Richards who shared his passion for music.

Hooper’s mother was Indian and his father British; he spent his childhood years in India before being packed off to an English boarding school at the age of twelve.  He never returned to India and was brought up by his grandfather, the architect T R Hooper in a comfortable suburban villa, Loxwood in Redhill, Surrey.  However memories of the colours and vibrancy of India stayed with him all his life.

Following a brief period as a banker, Hooper escaped to the Slade, transferring a year later to the Royal Academy Schools.  A talented student he won the Rome Scholarship in 1935 and spent the next three years revelling in the colour, light and art of Spain and Italy.  Declared unfit for service during the war he was enlisted in the Recording Britain project alongside, among others, John Piper, Michael Rothenstein and Roland Hilder.  His work at this time had a lively decorative quality, influenced by the prevailing neo-romantic tradition and received critical acclaim when exhibited at the National Gallery and elsewhere.  The Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum acquired several of his works from the period.

In 1945 Hooper became a tutor at Brighton Art School, where he remained until 1977.    Works from his Brighton period show him developing an increasingly lose style.  Alongside landscape, his interest in still life and interiors develops from this time. His own collection of Staffordshire, Wedgwood and Delftware pottery is a favourite subject matter for his recurring still-lives.

A return trip to Europe and the Mediterranean in the late 1950s, ignited Hooper’s last creative period. The work in this exhibition explodes in a riot of line, colour and movement reawakening memories of his Indian childhood.  The subjects remain the same, still-lives, the garden at Loxwood, the sitting-room filled with the piano and music, but the way he depicts them seem curiously at odds with his comfortable suburban lifestyle.

Hooper attracted the soubriquet Fauve and he acknowledged the influence. His use of bold, vibrant brush strokes and high-keyed colours, his fascination with gesture, with line formed in a moment conveys immediacy, risk and energy. In Bottle with Flowers, the forms of the flowers are conjured in rapid movements against the bold outline of the window. During the 1960s, Hooper’s work is also linked to the influence of two very different but important British artists; Ceri Richards and Duncan Grant.

Hooper owned works by both men and developed a friendship with Grant. Each artist took Hooper beyond the immediate surface of paper and canvas.  In the case of Grant it was not just his painting but his home at Charleston that made a deep impression on Hooper. To observe paint spilling beyond the confines of the picture plane onto furniture, walls and other objects was an inspiration to Hooper.  His connection with Grant culminated in a retrospective exhibition at Charleston in 1993.

Like Ceri Richards, music was a major part of Hooper’s life.  His wife Joyce had graduated from the Royal Academy of Music, Hooper was an accomplished pianist and the piano dominated the drawing room at Loxwood and is a recurring feature in his paintings.  Hooper’s interest in collage in particular came from Richards as well as his series of paintings of ‘emanations’ with their connotation of music invading the space.

Hooper went on to develop an exuberant and highly charged approach to mixed media. He used a variety of collage techniques. Paper cut or torn, shiny or matt, layered or just one sheet thick, delighted him. Indeed, applying subsequent collage to an apparently finished work defied the rules of perspective, forcing the viewer to confront the space between the here and now and the world of the picture.

 

Exhibitions Include:

1941-1943 Recording Britain Series

1945-7 Leicester Galleries, Leicester Square alongside Sickert, Smith, Grant and Hitchens.

1946 Commissions to create posters for Shell, Lyons & Co., Esso, British Rail and The Post Office.

1953-64 Works included in 7 exhibitions at Wildenstein’s, Bond Street. Also Mall Galleries and British Museum.

1984 & 1985  Solo shows at Odette Gilbert Gallery, Cork Street.

1988 Solo show for Sally Hunter, Motcomb Street.

1990 Solo show, Hooper Gallery, St John’s Wood.

1993 Retrospective Exhibition, Charleston, Sussex