A year has passed since Waterhouse & Dodd's exhibition Borough: David Bomberg and his students at Borough Polytechnic. The exhibition was a great success with over 25 works by a dozen different artists sold. There were many interesting contacts made, and it was a particular pleasure meeting the families of a number of the artists involved. Significantly, we made contact rather belatedly with Edna Mann's son who kindly showed me the contents of Edna's studio. Edna was of course one of the founding members of the Borough Group, but I was unable to trace any of her works prior to our show. Following our trilogy of Bombergian shows (in 2013-15), we are planning a major new exhibition in 2017 to coincide with the publication of an important monograph on David Bomberg.
Some of the most interesting meetings during the Borough show occurred with the artists who actually took part in the classes at the polytechnic, in particular Dennis Creffield and Leslie Marr. Leslie had an unusually strong connection to Bomberg through his marriage to Bomberg's step-daughter, Dinora. Leslie's works were particularly well received during the show with two major oils and a Ronda charcoal selling. Leslie was very helpful in providing a text for our catalogue and after the exhibition an invite to his studio was kindly forwarded. Leslie lives in north Norfolk, not a million miles away from my wife's family, and during the summer I took up the offer of a tour of his studio.
Leslie works in a purpose built studio. The red walls are adorned with over 60 years of work. A small wood burning stove stands to one side, with two large studio easels supporting works in progress. Suspended on a mezzanine level is storage for further paintings. In total, there are around 120 oils, although it is worth noting that there has been a significant cull of late as Leslie wishes to keep only those works he considers his best. A major new biography on Leslie is due to be published next year, and the process of taking stock of his career and achievements has led to a more literal stock take as well.
There are some real treasures in those racks, from his earlier Bomberg inspired 'thick-paint' works through to his more recent shimmering 'thin-paint' works. There is a clear evolution over the intervening 60 years, yet one senses an artist now firmly reacting against the style of his youth. Leslie is a man who has experienced a great deal in his life from his time in the RAF through to his brief career in Formula 1, but most evident is the vast distances he has travelled for his art and his deep connection to the landscapes he discovers. In his studio I found a highly expressionistic early oil of Antibes (that I wish I had known about last year). Hanging on the wall high above a set of drawers was a wonderful view of Mont St Victoire, which will be very familiar to those who admire Paul Cézanne. On the easels were recent paintings of Shropshire. Painted on a white ground in thin glazes, these landscapes have a lightness not normally attributed to the 'Bomberg School'.
It is our pleasure to be offering a small selection of Leslie's works this autumn. Although there is no formal exhibition, paintings can be viewed online and some very fine examples can be seen in our gallery during the coming months. I urge those who found much to like in the Borough exhibition to visit the gallery and learn a little more about Leslie's magnificent paintings.
View available works by Leslie Marr here.