It is reasonably well known that Oskar and Olda Kokoschka spent several summers, one autumn, and one spring, in Scotland during the last war. To be precise: in 1941, 1942, 1944. and 1945 at the House of Elrig, near Port William, on the south-west Scottish coast; and in 1944 and 1945 also at Ullapool, a centre of the fishing industry built in the eighteenth century on the north-west coast among some of the most ancient and spectacular scenery in the British Isles. It is fair to say that these were generally happy times, when they could leave London, forget the war, and recuperate among friends. To his Scottish life we owe Kokoschka's many fine water-colours of wild flowers, fish, fruit, vegetables, sea food and game, as well as innumberable sketch books, filled with coloured pencil drawings which capture in a few strokes the essentials of a place of scene - people, landscape, buildings, animals and so on. There exists also a handful of oils dating from this period.
There are taciturn painters, painters who are perpetually at a loss for words and when they find them, have very little idea of what to do with them, painters of whom it may truly be said that they should be seen and not heard. Sickert was not one of them. For the greater part of his working life he was expressing himself in words both publicly and privately. He always had a great deal to say and he was very anxious that the world should have his opinions on a wide variety of subjects. The world got them. But what really were his opinion? Had he in fact anything that could be called opinions? It had been doubted.
In existing accounts of British art in the 1950s, the Independent Group is often presented as the instigator of Pop Art. Erstwhile members of the Group have staked this claim on behalf of their activities but such a claim should be viewed critically. A close study of new primary sources makes it possible to see the Group, not so much in terms of its impact upon succeeding generations of painters, bu as part of an interesting pattern of British responses to modernism. The Independent Group gained a valuable insight into British attitudes towards modernism at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Because the full range of activities associated with the Institute of Contemporary Arts remains unstudied, its important role in forming the ideas of the members of the Group has yet to be appreciated. The Institute of Contemporary Art provided much more than a meeting place for the Independent Group; it was integral to its formation and provided a crucial stimulus for its discussions.
The recent acquisition by the Tate Gallery Archive of a portfolio of photographs by Walter Benington depicting sculptures by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska has brought to light a sculpture which, although recorded by him in the list of works he compiled on 9th July 1914, is generally unknown. Partially documented by Roger Cole in Burning to Speak under the heading 'Lesser Works', this Weeping Woman is in fact revealed in Benington's photograph (Fig.25) as an important early alabaster carving. The only known illustration of it appeared in New Paths. Verse. Prose. Pictures. 1917-1918 edited by C.W. Beaumont and M.T.H. Sadler and published in My 1918 which coincided with the 'Memorial Exhibition' of Gaudier's work held at the Leicester Galleries, London (May-June 1918). It does not appear to have been exhibitied in this exhibition, possibly because its owner, Jon Cournos, was abroad serving on the Anglo-Russian Commission in Petrograd that year (October 1917-Easter 1918). Indeed it seems never to have been seen publicly. The only other possible mention of it is in Pound's Gaudier-Brzeska a Memoir where, in the list of works at the back, he described under item 31 a 'chubby figure with bowed head, alabaster, early, unimportant work'.
The Group X exhibition at the Mansard Gallery in 1920 has suffered the same kind of neglect among art-historians as has British art of the 1920s in general, and for a similar reason. Attention has focused on the 'successful' avant-gardes of this century (successful in the sense of coherent continuation over a period of time), and has therefore skipped from the vorticists to the later Seven and Five Society, dismissing the early 1920s as an artistic non-event. A 'failed' avant-garde may, howeverm be quite revealing about the nature of avant-gardes, Group X is a particularly interesting case in the comparison between its obvious connections with the much more 'successful' vorticist avant-garde and its failure to cohere as a post-war rival to the London Group from which Group X members resigned.
One of the most appealing of recent acquisitions at the Tate Gallery has been Steven Campbell's 1985 painting The dangerous early and late life of Lytton Strachey (Fig.32). The rapid commercial success of this young Scottish painter (b.1953), whose first solo exhibition was only four years ago, has led some widely held misconceptions about his work. Both to correct these and to mark the Tate's first acquisition by one of the most original artists to have emerged in Britain in recent years, a close examination of this work seems in order.