Anthony Whishaw RA
Paintings from the mid-1960s – late 2015
This exhibition, the first retrospective of Tony Whishaw’s career since 2000, is substantially overdue. He has been producing challenging, thought provoking paintings for well over 50 years but, not being aligned to any of the contemporary groups or schools, his work cannot be conveniently categorised. Over this long period he has fiercely guarded his independence.
Whishaw shares with the best of his contemporaries an expansively international outlook stimulated by his childhood upbringing in Brazil. He early and abidingly turned to Spain, where he went for his travelling scholarship in the early 1950s. He was excited both by the great Spanish artists, Velasquez, Goya, Zurbaran, Picasso and, more recently, Tapies and by the harsh landscape. The latter is perhaps from where the tough dryness and grittiness of his canvasses stems and in embracing this he eschews English lushness and lyricism.
Whishaw’s work is challenging – he makes the viewer work hard to interpret his warping and skewing of space and form and he acknowledges that he explores unusual visual language, employing illusion and allusion. He takes impish delight in visual puns and sets out to confuse the viewer in his collages as to whether he is seeing the actual or the painted. The works reveal their content gradually, being layered and multi-faceted. Though he has worked consistently on specific themes and subjects over several decades, he has never fallen into the trap of endlessly repeating a winning formula, the downfall of so many artists striving for popularity.
That he continues, well into his eighties, to reinterpret these themes – landscapes, cityscapes and interiors – with as sharp and inquisitive an eye as ever is to be celebrated and it is fitting that this celebration should be at Browse and Darby, the gallery that first brought him to the public’s attention with three exhibitions in 1960s. Together with the publication of the new book on his work, it should spark renewed interest in his substantial achievement.
Anthony Whishaw studied at Chelsea College of Art between 1948 and 1952 afterwards winning a Royal College of Art Travelling Scholarship from 1952 to 1955. He has taught part time on various occasions at Chelsea School of Art and St Martins between 1958 and 1992. He has won several prizes and awards during his prolific career including an Arts Council of Great Britain Award in 1978 and the John Moores Minor Painting Prize in 1982. He was joint winner in the Hunting Group National Art Competition in 1986 and in 1996 won the Korn Ferry Carre Oban International Picture of the Year. He is also a member of the Royal Academy and has exhibited in the Summer Exhibitions every year since 1972.
He has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in the UK and abroad. Roland, Browse and Delbanco in 1963, 1965 and 1968.
In 1988 his work was part of a major exhibition ‘The Romantic Tradition in Contemporary British Painting’ which toured France and Spain. His work is included in prestigious private and public collections worldwide such as the Arts Council of Great Britain, Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, the European Parliament, Strasbourg, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, the National Westminster Bank, the Tate Gallery and The Bank of Boston, amongst several others.
Anthony Whishaw RA