Ian Collins, John Craxton, Lund Humphries, Surrey, 2011, cat no.98, illus colour, p85
In his foreword to Craxton’s 1967 Whitechapel Art Gallery retrospective, Bryan Robertson wrote of his art and ‘the sophistication of its references to Miro and Picasso and the crisp, clean vitality of its design.’ In the present work, the link to Picasso is particularly clear, and yet we are not seeing a painting which slavishly mimics the Spanish master, rather absorbing his use of line to define the forms and movements of the subjects.
Craxton first visited Greece in 1946 and returned to the eastern Mediterranean many times in subsequent years, eventually settling there permanently. Whilst his manner of painting did not change drastically as a result of these visits, his subject matter did, moving away from the literary inspired neo-romanticist manner of the war years, much influenced by Sutherland, towards an oeuvre which dealt with a simpler life, often still pastoral in subject, but imbued with a sense of informality and reality. His subjects of the time, shepherds, sailors, goatherds and fishermen are presented with a Byzantine clarity and yet without any formal pretensions. The sailors seen here dance with an unselfconsciousness that is refreshing, and remarkably rare in British art of the time.