Euan Uglow 1932-2000

Provenance

John Baron, acquired directly from the artist
Private Collection, UK, by descent

Exhibitions

1974, Truro, Royal Institute of Cornwall; Middlesborough, Teesside Art Gallery; Manchester, Peterloo Gallery; and Brighton, Gardner Centre Gallery, University of Sussex, Euan Uglow, 7 - 28 June; 20 July - 24 Aug.; 3 - 28 Sept.; 5 - 27 Oct. 1974, cat. no. 8
2019, London, Piano Nobile, Craigie Aitchison and the Beaux Arts Generation, 14 Nov. 2019 - 29 Jan. 2020, cat. no. 44

Literature

Richard Kendall and Catherine Lampert, Euan Uglow: The Complete Paintings, 2007, Yale University Press, cat. no. 41, p. 16 (illus.)
Susan Campbell, Craigie Aitchison and the Beaux Arts Generation, 2019, Piano Nobile Publications, cat. no. 44, pp. 132-133 (col. illus.)
In 1953, Euan Uglow was awarded the Abbey Minor Travelling Scholarship at the Slade, and with Natalie Dower he travelled by motorcycle to Rome via Holland, Belgium and France. Before leaving for Italy in July that year, he painted the present work, probably in the house Geri Morgan and Bob Dawson shared in Kilburn. Uglow said he was attracted to the 'blade-like' petals of the daisies (see C. Lampert, op. cit. p.16). As Catherine Lampert writes in her discussion of Uglow's still-lifes:

"Other still lifes depicted [...] flower arrangements in which leaves and petals progressively drooped. By tackling such transient subjects Uglow seemed to defy time, accepting the need to work on a smaller scale and limit the complexity of the motif, as he raced - figuratively speaking - to keep up with the natural processes. Although they rarely force the issue, these works reflect critically on a time-honoured genre, where for centuries painted grapes have spearkled indefinetely and silver dishes remained untarnished. There is wit and brutal honesty in Uglow's response, which insists on the perishability of things and - by extension - on our own conspicuous mortality. Holding up a mirror to art and its vanities, these pictures also propose an act of painting that engages with, absorbs and gives expression to time itself. " [C. Lampert, op. cit. p.xxxiii]

Lampert’s assessment is vindicated by Uglow’s statement, when questioned in an interview about his idiosyncratic measuring marks, that, ‘They are to do with what happened today, yesterday and the month before…It’s a chart or diary of what happened, while still trying to keep to the idea of what the painting is.’

In Daisy in a Milk Bottle, Uglow’s measuring marks around the right edge of the milk bottle and the folds of draped fabric show the artist embroiled in a struggle to represent the physical appearance of the still life. As Uglow put it, he sought to get it ‘right’. To extend, or correct, the composition, he added a second strip of board to the right side of the painting, which is laid onto a supporting board. This addition is hardly concealed and operates like a large-scale material version of his measuring mark, showing artist’s thought, his adjustments, recalculations, and decisive acts. The added strip of board carries a blank, blue area which preempts Uglow’s use of simplified colour grounds later in his career, particularly following his trip to Rome shortly after completing this painting. It forms a remarkably well developed example of his still life still at this early stage in his career carrying all the hallmarks of his mature works.

Biography

Euan Uglow was born in South West London in 1930. Briefly evacuated during the war, he enrolled at Camberwell School of Art in 1947, leaving to join the Slade School of Fine Art in 1950, where William Coldstream had been made Professor the year before. Even amongst a young group of exceptional painters including Craigie Aitchison, Michael Andrews and Howard Hodgkin, Uglow was immediately recognised as a precocious talent, winning the Slade’s first prize in figure painting and a scholarship to travel to Spain. Whilst a student, he was influenced both by his teachers, including the Euston Road School founders, Coldstream, Victor Pasmore, and Claude Rogers, and external influences such as quattrocento Italian painting and Giacometti. In 1959, having left the Slade and begun teaching, he moved to his studio in Turnchapel Mews in Battersea, where he lived and painted for his entire life. He served as an Artist Trustee at the National Gallery, London, was a Fellow of University College, London, and an Honorary Member of the London Institute. He travelled widely to paint and teach: to Morocco, Turkey, India, China, Cyprus, and Italy before his death in London in 2000. A pre-eminent post-war British artist, Uglow transformed figurative painting, subjecting perception to an unprecedented rigorous and meticulous scrutiny.

During his lifetime, Uglow had numerous exhibitions at Browse & Darby in London and Salander O’Reilly in New York, retrospectives at the Whitechapel in 1974, and 1989, and a posthumous exhibition at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal in 2003. His work was featured, often alongside William Coldstream, in group exhibitions including Eight Figurative Painters; 1981-2; The School of London and their Friends: The Collection of Elaine and Melvin Merians, 1999-2000 at the Yale Center for British Art. In 1972, Uglow won first prize in the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition 8, Walker Art Gallery for Nude from Twelve Regular Vertical Positions from the Eye, 1964. His work is held in major international private and public collections including the Tate, the Arts Council and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.