Stanley Simmonds (1917-2006) Paintings from his Cornish Studio

6th October 2015

7 – 15 November, 2015  Daily 11 – 4 pm     16 – 21 November, 2015  by appointment

Acclaimed post-war artist who taught Quentin Blake, was selected for group shows at the Royal Academy and Whitechapel Art Gallery and showed alongside Ivon Hitchens, John Bratby, Keith Vaughan and John Piper

The collection comes directly from his Cornish studio near Launceston where Stanley spent the last 25 years of his life, moving to be close to his life long friend, the poet Charles Causley.


Stanley was a passionately committed artist and teacher whose work encompasses a huge range of style and influences. Born in 1917 in Droitwich, Stanley’s talent was recognised early on when he was accepted at Birmingham College of Art aged 16. He saw active wartime service in the Royal Navy, where he served on the same ship as the Cornish poet, Charles Causley, who became a life long friend. Stanley painted several portraits of him and illustrated some of his books. After the war he resumed his studies at the Royal College of Art in 1946. His paintings at this time were beautifully executed tonal studies of nudes, still-lives and rural subjects. The sensitive portrait of his wife, Cynthia Kathleeen King, also a talented painter, whom he married in 1947 was done at this time.

The couple settled into married life in London, in a roomy flat at 22 Redcliffe Square, SW10 and on leaving the Royal College, Stanley was appointed art teacher at the Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School in 1949. Admired and respected by his students he remained for 30 years, his most famous pupil was the illustrator Quentin Blake with whom he exhibited at Hertford College, Oxford in 1963.

Blake remembers, I first came to know Stanley Simmonds as a teacher, when he returned from the Navy after the war to take over the art room at Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School.  He made it a place where not only art was produced but where art conversations could go on.  He was enormously helpful and valuable to me, as I am sure he was to many others’

 As as talented student Blake would visit Stanley’s London studio.  It was there that we really discovered Stan as a painter; to begin with in particular as a painter of Billingsgate market.  The Billingsgate paintings were evidently the fruit of many studies made on site; but it wasn’t, you felt, the detail of everyday life that took the artist’s attention as much as, together with substantial reality, the architecture of forms supplied by the porters and their surroundings. Those pictures were soon followed by a remarkable development into abstraction.  What was formerly substance becomes atmosphere.  It is a world of movement, distance, luminosity, but one which the architecture of the canvas is still disposed with authority

From the late 1950s to the 1970s Stanley’s career flourished and in 1957 he was selected for group exhibitions in The Brighton Art Gallery and The Royal Academy. A year later he showed in The London Group exhibition for young emerging artists, with Mary Fedden, Harold Mockford and Howard Hodgkin. In 1959 Stanley Simmonds was selected for the ‘Pictures for Schools’ exhibition at The Whitechapel Gallery and for the Festival of London exhibition.

Through to the early 60s he had group and solo exhibitions at the innovative Bear Lane Galley, Oxford with other leading British artists including Keith Vaughan and his work is in many of the Oxford Colleges. Also at the Bear Lane he showed in the ‘Contemporary British Landscape Painters,’ exhibition with John Piper, John Bratby and Ivon Hitchens.

Terence Mullaly of The Telegraph commented ‘The most interesting of these artists seems to be Stanley Simmonds-he combines a sure sense of design with colouring that succeeds in suggesting an element of mystery. He is an artist that deserves to be better known.’

G M Butcher in the “Guardian” wrote ‘..distinctly exciting that work by Simmonds in which his sensibility blossoms forth into an inherent logic of its own.’ and  John Hale in the ‘Arts News Review’, ‘Singled out Simmonds work” (from a mixed exhibition) as “outstanding” and wrote of “the delicacy and relish” of the painter’s reaction to certain visual experience.

Around this time Stanley embarked on the paintings of Billingsgate Market which represented a more personal exploration for him. Rising early in the mornings, he executed rapid pencil sketches of the porters and carters, unloading the heavy boxes of fish. His paintings of the market document his journey from figuration through to abstraction, exploring blocks of colour and tonal valuation but all imbued with the light and atmosphere of the market at dawn. These paintings and the drawings are a remarkable record of post-war working class London. The restricted palette of brown, grey, blue and terracotta and the simple shapes of the hard hats, flowing work clothes and boots give these fish porters an ethereal quality. An important painting from this series is in the collection of the Herbert Gallery, Coventry and others remain with the family.

Like many Modern British artists of his generation, Stanley was becoming increasingly attracted to abstraction which took many different forms, some of the canvases dissolve in a luminous atmospheric interpretation of the landscape the paint scumbled and glazed, others are much more tightly constructed with strong cubist shapes, bold colours and flat blocks of colour. He was drawing on a wide range of contemporary influences. There are elements of the neo-romantics like Keith Vaughan, Michael Ayrton and Graham Sutherland – and from further afield Mark Rothko and the Colour Field artists. In the most successful of them, Stanley forged a vision and style uniquely his own combining abstraction and figuration.

In the late 1960s Stanley and Cynthia moved to Trinity Street, Southwark. In1978 he was awarded The George Rowney Prize for Oil Painting in ‘The Spirit of London Competition’ He continued to experiment with new approaches to abstraction, illustrated books and designed work for the theatre. On his retirement in 1983 he left City for South Petherwin, near Launceston, Cornwall to be near his friend Charles Causley. Taking on a large studio in a converted chapel on the edge of Bodmin Moor, the 1980s saw a return to a more figurative style with successful exhibitions at the Somerville Gallery in Plymouth including a large retrospective in 2002 and at Exeter University.



Stanley Simmonds CV

Born 1917, Droitwich, youngest of three boys, Father a retired relief signal man, Mother a Dress maker.

Gains a scholarship to Royal Worcester Grammar School

1934-39 Attends Birmingham College of Art

1940-1946 Royal Navy, based in Plymouth becomes close friends with the poet Charles Causley

1946-1948 Attended Royal College of Art

1949 Begins teaching at Chiselhurst and Sidcup Grammar School, where remains for 30 years and where he tutors Quentin Blake

Living at 22 Redcliffe Square, SW10

1947 marries the artist, Cynthia King

Late 60s moves to 32 Trinity Street, Southwark

1983 Retires from teaching and moves to Chapel House, South Petherwin, Launceston be close to his life-long friend the poet Charles Causley

2006 Dies in Launceston

Previous Exhibitions

2014 Stanley Simmonds 1917 – 2006, A Retrospective Exhibition, The Foundry Gallery, Lewes

2012 Small retrospective exhibition organised by the Charles Causley Society.Lawrence House Museum, Launceston, Cornwall

2002 The Somerville Gallery, Plymouth

1995 Exeter University

1985 Portrait of Charles Causley – London Institute of Education. Part of Charles Causley’s 70th Birthday tribute includes works by Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron, Alfred Wallis

1963 Stanley Simmonds / Quentin Blake – Hertford College, Oxford

1962 Three Artists, R J Hitchcock, Kenneth Rowell, Stanley Simmonds – Bear lane Gallery, Oxford Two Man Exhibition” – Brook Street Gallery, London

1961 One Man Show – Bear Lane Gallery, Oxford

1960 Summer Exhibition – Bear Lane Gallery, Oxford

1959 Royal Academy, Pictures for Schools  – Whitechapel Art Gallery with Mary Feddon, Carel Weight, Michael Rothenstein and Roy Turner Durant, The Festival of London – Bexley, Oxford Today – Bear Lane Gallery, Oxford, One Man Show, Bear Lane Gallery Oxford

1958 The London Group Annual  Exhibition – RBA Galleries, Contemporary British Landscape Painters, with John Piper, John Bratby and Ivon Hitchens – Bear Lane Gallery, Oxford, One Man Show – Bear Lane Gallery, Oxford

1957, The Royal Academy

Brighton Art Gallery

1955 The Royal Academy

1954 The London Group


Collections Include:

Exeter University, Hertford College, Oxford, Pembroke College, Oxford, St Anthony’s College, Oxford, University College, Oxford Herbert Gallery, Coventry, and The  Education Committees of Oxford and Coventry.