Michael Andrews, whose work Near Malu Kata Evening, Katatjuta (The Olgas) features in the Modern & Post War British Art sale on 13 June, is one of Britain’s most influential painters of the post-war period. Despite being indifferent to publicising his work, an extraordinarily high perecentage of the relatively small amount of finished paintings he produced can be found in national museums throughout the world. Find out more about the artist below.
He broke through as a painter of club scenes.
Andrews gained attention for his paintings of social gatherings. Some were real, like the Colony Room (1962), his seminal painting of the Soho drinking club frequented by Andrews, fellow School of London revellers like Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon and other famous Soho drinkers. Other paintings were inspired by fictional sources: The Deer Park riffs on the atmosphere of Norman Mailer’s novel of the same name and features figures based on images of Marilyn Monroe and Ian Fleming. Andrews said of The Deer Park: “I went directly for excitement.”
(LEFT TO RIGHT) TIMOTHY BEHRENS, LUCIAN FREUD, FRANCIS BACON, FRANK AUERBACH AND MICHAEL ANDREWS HAVING LUNCH AT WHEELERS RESTAURANT IN SOHO, LONDON, 1963. CREDIT: THE JOHN DEAKIN ARCHIVE/GETTY
He was a painter-philosopher.
Andrews’ series of seven paintings, Lights, is one of his greatest achievements. It focuses on the journey of a balloon across disparate landscapes, from Waterloo Bridge to Brighton Pier. The poetic series tapped into philosophical ideas of self-consciousness and enlightenment: the balloon for Andrews was symbolic of the phrase “the skin-encapsulated ego” coined by the psychologist R.D. Laing and the painter also drew on Zen Buddhism. The series’s title was based on the poet Rimbaud’s collection of poems, Illuminations.
He painted slowly.
Andrews worked deliberately and carefully and produced relatively few pictures over four decades. He also worked in defined series that challenged him formally and in terms of subject matter, from the clubs, through the Lights series, to deer stalking in Scotland, the Australian Outback and finally images inspired by the Thames.
He painted one of the most tender images of parenthood.
Melanie and Me Swimming (1978-79) features Andrews and his daughter swimming while on holiday in Scotland in the summer of 1976. Like many of his paintings, it is based on a photograph and was painted in his Norfolk studio. It was realised using a novel technique that would become a signature style of his, using both brushes and a spray gun to create distinctive painterly effects.
MICHAEL ANDREWS, NEAR MALU KATA EVENING, KATATJUTA (THE OLGAS). ESTIMATE £500,000—700,000.
His Australian works tap into the country’s ancient history.
In the 1980s, Andrews travelled to Australia. He went to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), making sketches and taking hundreds of photographs. He climbed the rock and walked around it. He also visited the Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) rock formations, nearby, a site of equal sacredness to the Pitjantjatjara people. It is from this series that Near Malu Kata Evening, Katatjuta (The Olgas), 1986, comes. Like other paintings in this great series, this painting, which is to be sold at Sotheby’s on 13 June, marries an evocation of the colour and heat of the location with an almost mirage-like lightness.
The Modern & Post War British Art sale is in London on 13 June.