JAMES LLOYD (1905-1974)

28 June - 26 July 2013

Including works by:
James Lloyd

Austin Desmond Fine Art is delighted to announce an exhibition of the work of James Lloyd (1905-1974), timed to coincide with the major L.S. Lowry exhibition at Tate Britain.  In 1971, Lowry described Lloyd as the most important British naive painter of today. Both artists were from the North-West (born 30 miles apart) and while they were painting, both relied on income from regular jobs for most of their life.

Mr. Lloyd’s work has been widely recognized and has attracted much attention in art circles, owing to its individual style, its sincerity of approach, and its care in execution. It is the result of perceptive observation of certain everyday things which appeal to the artist, revealed in his own personal way – L. S. Lowry, June 16th, 1971. Foreword to the Portal Gallery exhibition, October-November 1971

This exhibition will include over forty of his classic paintings and will be the first James Lloyd show since his retrospective at Camden Arts Centre in 1977. From the late 1950s until his death, he enjoyed a sequence of sell-out exhibitions in London, which were positively and widely reviewed. Lloyd’s paintings are held in British public collections including Tate, London, and in important international collections such as the Anthony Petullo Collection of Self-Taught & Outsider Art in Milwaukee, USA.

James Lloyd took up painting full-time at the age of forty-eight, having worked at a variety of occupations including cowman, labourer, bus conductor, factory worker and policeman. With great intensity, he worked in watercolour and gouache, seated at the kitchen table, surrounded by the chaos of family life with eight children.  

Lloyd’s artistic “discovery” took place in 1957, when the influential critics – Herbert Read and John Berger - paid a visit to this unknown artist’s council house in Yorkshire. (Read, who lived locally, had responded to an invitation from Lloyd’s wife.) The following year saw his first exhibition at London’s Arthur Jeffress Gallery, with catalogue introduction by Read. When this gallery closed in 1961, he moved to the Portal Gallery, where he became the pre-eminent name in its stable of artists. The Portal soon offered him a monthly stipend, allowing him to give up his job at a plastics factory and to work full-time as an artist.

… Applying dot after dot as though in a kind of trance, as though the repetitive gesture was a kind of physical mantra; his world taking shape in front of him while the Beatles wailed and the children scampered and giggled - George Melly, A Tribe of One: Great Naïve Painters of the British Isles

A countryman to the core, raised in Cheshire, with an adult life spent in Yorkshire, rural scenes inevitably dominated his output. An affectionate and quirky portrayal of animals took precedence, and where humans are included in his compositions they are usually involved in rural or agricultural activity – hedging, watling, harvesting and the like. Lloyd’s other chief subject, and a new one for artists, was the cult and depiction of celebrity as seen on colour television (which he purchased after one of his early Portal Gallery exhibitions) and in the many new magazines being published. There occurred an artistic and cultural collision, as Lloyd took images of pop stars and actresses – in this exhibition The Beatles, Cat Stevens, Davy Jones and Chuck Berry – and placed them in his own local countryside.

He achieved minor celebrity status himself in 1963, through Ken Russell’s BBC documentary The Dotty World of James Lloyd. Two years later, in an inspired piece of casting, Russell gave the totally untried Lloyd the starring role of Henri Rousseau in Always on a Sunday, his biopic about the 19th century French naïve painter.

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