John Aldridge RA (1905-1983)
'The Moors, Gt Bardfield'
signed and dated 'John Aldridge/March 55' l.r., oil on canvas
65 x 80cm
This lot includes a 'Great Bardfield Summer Exhibition, 8-17 July 1955' booklet in which the lot offered for sale is illustrated. 'The Art of Acquisition - Great Bardfield Artists' Houses', published by the Fry Art Gallery, Saffron Walden, 2015, is also included with the lot and this contains a photograph, on page 15, of John Aldridge with the work on an easel in his studio at 'The Place' in Great Bardfield during the 1950s.
This painting is of 'The Moors' in Great Bardfield, one of Aldridge's favourite spots to paint. It is also a painting with one of the strongest provenance trails: having been reproduced in black and white in the booklet for the Great Bardfield Summer Exhibition in 1955, there is also a publicity photograph taken by Geoffrey Ireland (in the National Portrait Gallery) of John with this work on the easel.
John was born in Woolwich into an upper-class military family. He was schooled at Uppingham, Rutland, before getting a scholarship to Oxford to study Literae Humaniores or 'Greats' at Corpus Christi College, where John Betjeman remembered him by the nickname 'Corpus Aesthete'. It was during his second year that John devoted himself to art and on leaving Oxford went to London.
In London he moved in with his university friend, the poet, Norman Cameron, and became better acquainted with Robert Graves and Laura Riding, with Aldridge illustrating dust jackets for their books. In 1931, at the age of twenty-five, John was invited by Ben Nicholson to join and exhibit with the Seven and Five Society alongside Ben and other artists, including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Ivon Hitchens, Christopher Wood, Cedric Morris, Frances Hodgkins, Jessica Dismorr, David Jones, as well as Alfred Wallis. This was followed by many successful exhibitions at the Leicester Galleries and, in 1949, he became a teacher at the Slade School of Art, inspiring many other students to become professional artists.
When John Aldridge moved to Great Bardfield in Essex in 1933, he had returned from Mallorca after staying with Robert Graves. The isolation of the island must have been an inspiration to have a simpler life than his time in London. When looking for a home, Cedric Morris had suggested the neighbouring village of Finchingfield as a 'beauty spot' and together with his lover (and later wife), Lucie, John found Place House, a farmhouse that had been considerably extended in the reign of Elizabeth I by one of her sergeants-at-law, William Bendlowes.
In the village they formed a friendship with the artists Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious. John later had an affair with Ravilious' wife, Tirzah Garwood. John lived in Great Bardfield until his death in 1983, having witnessed the influx of artists to the village in the 1940s and 50s, including Michael Rothenstein, Kenneth Rowntree, George Chapman, Stanley Clifford Smith, Walter Hoyle, Shelia Robinson and her husband, Bernard Cheese. It was also home to their children, the next generation of artists, such as Joanna and Richard Bawden and Chloe Cheese.
In 1951, the Great Bardfield artists obtained a grant to open up their homes as exhibition venues as part of the regional events for the Festival of Britain. At such an exhibition the artists wouldn't have to pay galleries any fees and could keep all the money, being able to take commissions or to replace works as soon as they were sold. The event was such a success, it was repeated in 1954 and again in 1955, from where this painting was purchased.
Aldridge's work is held in national collections all over the UK and he is championed by the Fry Art Gallery, Saffron Walden.
He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy (ARA) in 1954 and a Royal Academician (RA) in 1963. He married twice, Lucie Brown (née Saunders), 1941-1970, and Gretl Cameron (née Bajardi), 1970-1983.
We are grateful to Robjn Cantus, of Inexpensive Progress, for his assistance with the above catalogue note.
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Sold for £7,500
Well presented and ready to hang. Not examined under UV light but appears to be in good condition. For a full report please contact the department.
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