Thursday, 25 June 2009

Artist Designers

What better way to spend a Monday lunch time than listening to the delightful ramblings of three charming grey haired gentlemen imbued with a love of the artist designer? Not any particular artist designer I hasten to add, but the concept of the talent that slips naturally between the occupations of fine art and more commercially minded design. The three chaps in question were Brian Webb, Peyton Skipwith and David Gentleman at the Fleming Collection giving a lecture entitled, "Artists, Designers and Illustrators: Their Impact on our Society."
Brian and Peyton had just completed a book working with David in their "Design" series. The series, published by the Antique Collector's Club has so far had titles including the work of Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Paul and John Nash and Edward McKnight Kauffer. A recently published addition was the book about Harold Curwen and Oliver Simon at the Curwen Press. A rich source of the most lovely graphic design bringing together the concept of artist designer in elegant style.
Much of the discussion boiled down to anecdotes about Edward Bawden, obviously not the easiest man to get along with. David, who was taught by Bawden at the RCA, referred to his "prickly veneer" and Brian remembered his comment on the then Managing Director of Wedgewood, with whom he had a rocky relationship, as "having an unnerving eye for the mediocre." The talk breezed over such artist designer gods as Eric Ravilious, Lovat Fraser, Paul and John Nash, David Mellor, Graham Sutherland and even Rodchenko.

I loved David's recollections of his artistic childhood. His parents met at Glasgow School of Art in the (relatively new) Mackintosh building and had tea at Cranston's, at a time when it was important to "instil useful abilities" at art school. David's father, Tom, was an artist designer himself and became Head of Shell Studios. David remembered watching, as a very small boy, George V's Silver Jubilee parade from the Shell Studio perched below the clock in Shell Mex House - surrounded by the elite artist designers of the day.
In this school print by Tom Gentleman, the little boy in blue on the right of the horses is David.
We ended the session catching up with Brian, and getting the David Gentleman booked signed by all three contributors for my mother.