Sir George Clausen
Signed bottom right
Watercolour and pencil on paper
13 x 11 1/8 in, 33 x 28 cm
George Clausen formed part of a radical subset of the New English Art Club that identified with the Realism of French Barbizon artists such as Jean-Francois Millet and Jules Bastien-Lepage....
George Clausen formed part of a radical subset of the New English Art Club that identified with the Realism of French Barbizon artists such as Jean-Francois Millet and Jules Bastien-Lepage.
Having studied in Paris, Clausen returned to London with a keen interest in contemporary French painting and was a frequent visitor to the Impressionist dealer Durand-Ruel’s outpost in London, the Deschamps Gallery. It was also during this time that Bastien-Lepage’s truthful portrayals of rustic life became immensely popular in Britain via the Salon and London picture trade. Clausen was inspired by the stark simplicity and vitality of these naturalist plein air paintings, saying of Bastien-Lepage: ‘all his personages are placed before us in the most satisfying completeness, without the appearance of artifice, but as they live and without comment, as far as is possible on the author’s part”. Clausen was particularly interested in representing the monumental qualities of pastoral labour and the peasantry, whom he described as “the bottom crust of society”.
‘The Barn’ is a wonderful example of the influence of French naturalism in Clausen’s oeuvre, made during the period from 1891 to 1906 when he lived in the small village of Widdington in Essex. Part of a series of barn interiors built up from rapid sketches, this work is thought by Professor Kenneth McConkey to be a study for ‘The Barn Door’ (1894).
Surrounded by simple rural life, Clausen was also able to expand upon his growing interest in Impressionism during this period with a new found sense of movement and atmosphere. In this watercolour the use of brilliant sunshine streaming into the interior highlights the struggle of the two farmhands as they hoist sacks of grain over their shoulders. While Clausen adopted the expressive mark-making of Impressionism, he was also eager to maintain a sense of naturalism with a defined linearity to his figures.
Despite being an outsider to the establishment, when the Royal Academy began to embrace French-Anglo artists, Clausen was made a Professor of Painting and elected a full Academician in 1908. His lectures were so successful that they were instantly published. In 1917 Clausen was appointed an official war artist, assuming the status of one of Britain's most important painters after the Armistice. Important works by Clausen are held in the Tate Collection, Royal Academy of Arts, Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, National Gallery of Australia and the Imperial War Museum, London.
Private collection, UK
Connaught Brown, Summer Exhibition, June-July 1988, no. 24