One of the more fortunate consequences of the Ravilious/Bawden boom, has been the renewed interest in British landscape painting by, let’s say, lesser-known British artists who came up through the craft-based art school tradition. Less fortunately, the reason they are having their day in the sun is usually because they’ve just died. Over the past couple of years we’ve seen the demise of William Crozier, Rigby Graham, William Bowyer as well as sometime landscapist Maurice Cockrill to name but a few.
Roland Collins neatly falls into the category of benignly neglected English Romantic Landscape painters with his chunky, occasionally chocolate-boxy, gouaches and watercolours. Closer examination of his work, though, reveals the kind of steely resolve typical of the practitioner who managed to evade success through most of their career.
There is a binary mindset in the British Art establishment that determines who is Top Artist – monstres sacrées like Freud, Hirst, Emin – with the remainder toiling away in Nieberlungian obscurity.
Roland Collins, a dapper Fitzrovian flaneur and Whitstable beachcomber (he lived in Brian Sewell’s childhood cottage), managed to find an audience late in life for his sea walls, sail lofts, picket fences, whelk stalls and semi-industrial detritus – all rendered in slabs of bold pigment beneath a mildly hallucinogenic sky. Given the surreal quality of many of his paintings it’s no surprise that he was a lifelong admirer of Sickert, to the extent of an annual pilgrimage to Dieppe.
I’ll be highlighting other British artists deserving of a wider audience from time to time, so don’t forget to look in once in a while.