Always a slow and meticulous painter, Andrews’ early works are now very rare. The present two lots are both studies for the large oil, Four People Sunbathing (Arts Council Collection) of 1955, and thus appears to have been painted in 1954-55. Andrews had just left the Slade, and in the works of this formative period we see him developing a number of themes that would be more fully developed over the next decade.
The sense of formality within an apparently informal setting is one that is very much evident at this time, and in the two best known Slade-period paintings, August for the People (London, University College Collection) and The Man Who Suddenly Fell Over (Tate) it is quite clear that the placing of the figures within the composition is key to their success. The setting of Four People Sunbathing is imaginary, although elements are derived from the garden of his family home in Norwich, and the figures, intended to appear nonchalant, drawn from various London friends.
The people were supposed to have plumped themselves down unceremoniously but formally with respect of their surroundings; I was aware of the paradox and intended it…..If there is any languor in it, it is what I would have liked to have felt. In fact, I was taut as a drum and the picture is terribly tightly drawn. (the artist, quoted in Lawrence Gowing, Introduction, in exhibition catalogue, Michael Andrews, Arts Council 1981, p.9)
In the present works, the process by which this was achieved is clear. The foreshortened sunbathing figures are actually rather different to those in the finished painting, and thus, along with the artist’s carefully measured underdrawing, demonstrate the process that he was developing to give formal and psychological tension to his compositions.
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