Purchased from the artist 1939
Sir Leslie Martin
Private collection, UK
Marlborough Fine Art, Art in Britain, 1930-40, centred around Axis, Circle, Unit One, 1965, cat no.63
Kettles Yard, Cambridge, Circle - Constructive Art in Britain, 1934-40, 1982, cat no.17
Arthur Jackson is one of the least well-known of the English modernist artists, due in great part to his short career as a painter. A cousin of Barbara Hepworth, he used the name Jackson (his middle name) to keep a certain distance between them in the public eye.
Trained at St.Martin’s School of Art, he studied with Ben Nicholson in the early 1930’s and was elected to the 7 & 5 Society in 1934. An accomplished photographer, he travelled in Europe and became friendly with a number of the leading figures of the abstract movement, particularly Jean Helion and Hans Erni. Having begun studying architecture in 1938, he gave up painting in 1939 and, after war service in the Middle East, worked exclusively as an architect.
Jackson’s style, whilst having a clear relation to Nicholson in his earliest works, seems to retain a more anthromorphic element than that of the older man, and by the end of his short career, it has closer affinities with the more mainstream European modernist style. The present work, with its carefully balanced simple floating forms, indeed perhaps has a closer relation in one of the major figures of the continental movement, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, the Hungarian former Bauhaus teacher who arrived in London in 1935 and was a Hampstead neighbour of Jackson. Moholy-Nagy had long experimented with a variety of media, but in the late 1930’s had begun to produce paintings which incorporated plexiglass and thus allowed areas of colour to physically float above the ground. The purity of paintings such as the present work also have a link to the contemporary experiments in textile design being produced by Alastair Morton for the Edinburgh Weavers Co. which aimed to transfer the modernist design ethos to fabrics and carpets.
However, regardless of the route by which Jackson came to such a manner, it is in paintings such as Painting 1939, one of his very last, that we see the lost potential for English modernist painting when his allegiances transferred to architecture.