Euan Uglow 1932-2000


With Browse & Darby, London
Dr Bruce Laughton
Private Collection, UK, by descent


1997, London, Browse & Darby, Euan Uglow, 30 April - 31 May 1997, unnumbered
2019, London, Piano Nobile, Craigie Aitchison and the Beaux Arts Generation, 14 Nov. 2019 - 29 Jan. 2020, cat. no. 48


Richard Kendall and Catherine Lampert, Euan Uglow: The Complete Paintings, 2007, Yale University Press, cat. no. 382, p. 189 (col. illus.)
Susan Campbell, Craigie Aitchison and the Beaux Arts Generation, 2019, Piano Nobile Publications, cat. no. 48, pp. 140-141 (col. illus.)
Unusually for Uglow, Night Scene was painted not from life but from memory. No sitter was present during its execution, with the artist taking the idea from a gesture he had witnessed some years before. The ‘imagined’ quality of the painting is apparent from the inconsistent depiction of the bra; though the white strap is visible behind the girl’s back, it disappears at the front where her breast is exposed. The cluster of the woman’s fingers suggests a fleeting movement of the hands. Several different arrangements of the hands are being shown at once. The picture represents the very act of unfastening in progress, a gesture which Uglow enjoyed not only for its sex appeal but also for its pleasing awkwardness.

Uglow’s paintings are almost all imprinted with a stamp of artistic professionalism. This ideal was closely related to the respect for good draughtsmanship which was instilled by a Slade training. In Night Scene, one indication of professionalism is the artist’s own immaculate blue-edged label on the back of the painting. Another is the assiduous clarity of the composition, with blocked-out panels of complementary blue and yellow – a colour-driven composition not dissimilar from those of his friend Craigie Aitchison. In both the label and the composition, an ideal of finish and formal completeness was in play.

Night Scene further displays the type of marks which characterise Uglow’s work: the hard outlines, the delicate singular strokes of the brush which build up the surface of hair and flesh, the measuring marks used to pin the figure to a particular point in space. The ambition was to use impartial marks, free from a ‘style’ or ‘manner’, which created an equivalent of the artist’s observations. This ideal was eloquently expressed by Frank Auerbach in a brief paean to the work of Uglow’s teacher and close friend William Coldstream.

…the scaffolding, of idiom, of ‘measurement’, of ‘austerity’, of a conscious, rigorous probity, has been dismantled and what is revealed is totally convincing, totally organic and immensely distinguished.