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July 7, 2008

Edward Seago – The Artists’ Artist

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

The Taylor Gallery Ltd., specialists in work by Edward Seago, are organizing a major retrospective exhibition of his paintings and watercolours, in collaboration with Colnaghi, London, the gallery that represented the artist in his heyday. The exhibition coincides with the Sky Arts screening of a four-part documentary produced by Colonial Pictures about the artist’s life and work and that of his friend, the author John Masefield. The exhibition comprises approximately 50 oil paintings, watercolours and drawings available for sale together with important loans from H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh and Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. Loan exhibits include four of Seago’s Antarctic paintings loaned by The Duke of Edinburgh and seven seminal East Anglian works lent by The Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery including ‘The Anvil Cloud’, a landscape painted by Seago specifically for the Museum’s collection. There will also be a display of catalogues and press cuttings from the Colnaghi archives. The exhibition, which is the second joint exhibition of Seago’s work by the Taylor Gallery and Colnaghi, following on from their successful 2006 exhibition Atmosphere and Light, runs from 8th until 19th September at Colnaghi, 15 Old Bond Street, London.

Colnaghi acted as the artist’s agents from 1946 until 1967 and hosted annual Seago exhibitions in their galleries on Old Bond Street. These exhibitions were so popular that visitors had to queue up outside the gallery; collectors were limited to one painting per person and one journalist commented that so many works were sold that “the visitor to the Colnaghi exhibition is apt to suffer from red spots in front of his eyes”. By 1967, the year of Seago’s last exhibition at Colnaghi, demand for his work was so great that several buyers queued all night so as to be first through the door. Many of the works in the current exhibition, so sought-after by collectors today, were originally sold by Colnaghi more than 50 years ago, testifying to their enduring popularity.

Seago’s work is represented in many major private collections including those of H.R.H. The Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, the late Queen Mother and the Swire Family. He was a regular guest at Sandringham and often painted with Prince Philip. The Royal paintings date from the 1956-1957 trip, when Seago was invited by the Duke of Edinburgh to accompany him on a tour of Antarctica on the Royal Yacht “Britannia” after the opening of the Olympic Games in Melbourne. Seago also stopped off in Singapore for a week on the way, and finished six paintings, two of which- ‘South Bay Quay’ and ‘Riverside, Singapore’, are included in the exhibition. Other Far-Eastern works include two paintings executed during Seago’s 1962 trip to Hong Kong: ‘Fishing Boats at Siu Hang’ and the flower market in ‘Queens Road West, Hong Kong’. Having been commissioned to produce five paintings of local views for the Boardroom of John Swire & Sons Ltd, the Far-Eastern shipping and trading house, Seago extended his trip to Hong Kong for three months.

Edward Seago RBA RWS saw himself as heir to a long tradition of British landscape painting stretching back to Crome, Cotman, Constable, and Gainsborough, all of whom, like Seago, were born in East Anglia. He was almost entirely self-taught, having drawn continually during long periods of illness throughout his childhood; and his fascination with cloud patterns, which he shared with his great precursor Constable, can be seen in a ‘Norfolk Beach Summer’ and the study of the Suffolk fishing boats – ‘The Butt and Oyster’ (the title derived from a favourite pub) in the present exhibition. It is these East Anglian scenes for which Seago is perhaps best known. Less well-known are his atmospheric renderings of the more ceremonial aspects of London shown in two large works from the late 1950s: ‘The Quadriga at Hyde Park Corner’ and ‘Horseguards on The Mall’.

Wide-ranging chronologically and geographically, the exhibition spans almost the whole of Seago’s long career, including scenes from his early life in the circus and records of his frequent boat-trips to France and Holland, such as the ‘Basin Step at Honfleur’, one of Seago’s favourite locations and ‘The Street at Langres’.. Seago’s love of Italy is reflected in three Roman paintings- ‘Ponte Sant’ Angelo’, drawing the viewer’s eye to the Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum, also known as Castel Sant’ Angelo, ‘Piazza Navona, Rome’, capturing the bustle of a Roman afternoon outside Borromini’s Church of Sant’ Agnese in Agone and Sunlight & Shadows, Rome’, which features the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria and, by contrast, a quiet study of deserted Venetian square: ‘The Grey House in Venice’.

His taste for the exotic, on the other hand, is ably illustrated with ‘Morning Sunlight on the Golden Horn, Istanbul’ a work depicting the chaotic shipping of the Bosphorus, and the ‘The Walls of Marrakech’. Both cities were favourite spots, to which he regularly returned.

Jeremy Howard, Head of Research of Colnaghi, commented: “We at Colnaghi are proud to have been Seago’s most important dealers during his lifetime and delighted to be working with The Taylor Gallery again, as we did two years ago, celebrating the talent and achievements of an artist whose work continues to be an inspiration to other artists and bring pleasure to his many collectors and admirers”.

Jeremy Taylor, Director of The Taylor Gallery says: “Interest in Edward Seago as an artist, has been increasing and there has been a move to reassess him as an artist who never received the critical acclaim he deserved, despite his popularity and commercial success during his lifetime. His work has had a profound influence on many current artists, hence the title of this exhibition ‘The Artists’ Artist’.”

Catalogues at £10 are available from The Taylor Gallery, Colnaghi and Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. Proceeds from the sale of catalogues will support the acquisitions of works of art for Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

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