Neal Prince Trust

MEDLEY, Robert (1905-1994), English
 Screen-print ²
 “Misery and Remorse”
Edition 16/20
(69.50cm x 51.50cm) ca.1978


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Costume Design Collection

Neal Prince & Herbert W. Hemphill, Jr. Collections 1950-1967

Fine Arts Appraisal for Herbert W. Hemphill, Jr., 1964

Fine Arts Appraisal for Neal Prince, 1969



Estate hold 16/20 Edition, "Misery and Remorse"
MEDLEY, Robert (1905-1994) British Painter, Screen-print, 16/20 Edition, ca.1978

Artist:           Robert Medley (1905-1994), British

Title¹:           “Misery and Remorse”

Date:            1978

Medium:      Screen-print

Materials:     Paper

Markings:     Signed by the Artist on the lower right corner, numbered 16/20

Dimensions: 69.50cm x 51.50cm

Framed:        No

Inventory No: NAPT.1999.000434

Provenance:  Neal Prince Trust u/a/d 10.18.1999

Mr. Neal Prince

Mrs. Sally Loyd, Project Art Limited, London

Artists Market Association (Warehouse Gallery), October 1978

Footnote¹:          This work comes from the portfolio Samson Agonistes. The works are the artist's response to the tragedy written by the poet John Milton in 1671. Milton's play focused on last years of the life of Samson as told in Book of Judges in the Bible. The tragedy begins with the blinded Samson held captive in Gaza by the Philistines, for their amusement Samson is summoned to perform feats of strength. The play ends with Samson pulling down the pillars of the place where the assembly are gathered, and all, including Samson, are destroyed. Milton's play ends with the words 'calm of mind, all passion spent'.




Robert Medley (1905-1994) British

Robert Medley was born in 1905, which his first to school at Langton in Dorset, where he loved the countryside but hated the lack of privacy, the conventional curriculum and the demands of team games. He was already introspective and prone to the self-doubt that made him later so diffident and scrupulous an artist. At 14, after mercifully failing to get into the Navy as an officer cadet, he was sent to Gresham's School, Holt, in Norfolk, a new 'progressive' school. His education there was haphazard, much interrupted by accidents, and academically undistinguished. At Gresham's, it was to Medley that the precocious Wystan Auden became most intensely attached. He was the friend recalled in Letter to Lord Byron who 'one afternoon in March at half-past three' provoked Auden for the first time into verse. Later when Auden was at Oxford and Medley at the Slade, they were, briefly, lovers. They remained friends until Auden's death. At 15 Medley had already decided that he must become a painter. In January 1923 he enrolled at Byam School of Art. Dissatisfied with the academic regime there, he left after a year to join the Academy Schools; in the spring of 1924 he moved on to the Slade, where he was taught by the redoubtable Tonks. But his essential education as an artist took place elsewhere; at Leon Underwood's studio classes behind Olympia, also attended by Henry Moore and Eileen Agar; at Meninsky's classes at Central School; at Bloomsbury soirees at the Stracheys' house in Gordon Square, in talk and gossip with Roger Fry, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell. These were the great years of the Diaghilev Ballets Russe seasons at the Coliseum, where he encountered for the first time the work of Picasso, Derain, Stravinsky and Bakst. 'Unfinished at the Slade,' as he later put it, Medley left in 1926 to join Rupert Doone, whom he had just met and at once fallen in love with, and who was dancing with Diaghilev in Paris. Here he frequented the art cafes of Montparnasse by night, whilst continuing his education by day; mostly in copying at the Louvre. Poussin became a passion, and Watteau's great Gilles assumed the force of a personal icon; it 'expressed, in the most elegant and poetic terms, a view of life that was profoundly Stoical'. Art and ethics were to be deeply entwined in Medley's practice as an artist thereafter: he has exemplified for our time the idea of the artist philosopher. Medley was frequently in Paris over the next few years, but at home in London be became a member of the London Group, and his first one-man show was at the Cooling Galleries in 1931, the year he began teaching part-time at Chelsea. For six years after 1932 Medley largely subordinated his career to that of Doone who was now engaged on the extraordinary adventure of the Group Theatre. Medley designed sets and costumes for most of Doone's productions, including all those of the Auden-Isherwood plays. His passages on the Group Theatre in his autobiography Drawn from the Life (1983) remain the best accounts of an important chapter of English theatrical history. His paintings of the period are accomplished and various, but give little indication of what was to come. Medley's war was spent almost entirely in Cairo as a camouflage officer, with occasional sorties into the North African theatre of action, and journeys to Persia, Syria, Palestine and Algeria. He developed a passion for Arabic art, and an abiding love of the people of the Middle East. Major Medley returned in 1945 to teach at Chelsea, and the house he shared with Doone in Cathcart Road became a lively centre of artistic life in post-war London. Among their closest friends could be numbered some of the best artists and writers of the day, Ceri and Frances Richards, Francis Bacon, Kathleen Raine, George Seferis, Keith Vaughan. Among his students were Elisabeth Frink, John Berger and Robert Clatworthy. As an artist the war had enabled him to clear the decks for new beginnings. His first post-war paintings are poetic essays in mythologizing, marked by a brilliant eye-catching colourism, but it was with the 'Cyclist' paintings of 1950-52, one of which won a major prize in the '60 Paintings for 51' Festival Exhibition, that Medley came into his own. From now on his progress was to be one of systematically eliminating stylistic mannerisms and programmatic approaches to picture-making in favor of an absolute authenticity and truth to inner experience. Medley in his maturity always opted to do the difficult thing, insisted upon 'deepening the game' in Bacon's phrase. The cyclist paintings, Arcadian evocations inspired by absolutely modern moments in contemporary streets and parks, were succeeded by Medley's beautiful 'Antique Room' series, painted after he had returned to the Slade to take over the Theatre Design section. These were elegiac meditations on a classical world of the imagination, just as the Gravesend paintings that followed in the late Fifties, of workers in an industrial landscape, were Medley's modern recapitulation of the classic themes of figures in architectural settings. Medley had a retrospective at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, in London, in 1963, and a further one at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, and on tour, in 1984. In 1984, he won the Charles Woolaston Prize for the most distinguished work at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Medley's work became increasingly non-figurative, and in the mid-Sixties he turned for a while to a hard-edge abstraction that reflected his desire for order and structure in painting. In the last 20 years his painting returned to a painterly figuration of great psychological penetration, whose touch and gesture propose always the impossibility of fixing the image: a technical correspondence to the difficulties of establishing an emotional truth of relation in life itself. In 1978, Mr. Medley issued screen prints in a series of 20 editions, which Mr. Prince purchased with Sally Lloyd that these two screen prints are still retained by the Trust. Mr. Medley died in 1994.

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