When I first came across the artist Edward Burra, I assumed he was American. His images seemed so redolent of 1920’s and 30’s New York, of Harlem and humanity’s dark side. He was clearly someone who was drawn to those on the margin of society despite (or maybe for that very reason) coming from a well-to-do family.
However, as it turns out, he was a true British eccentric. Despite suffering from acute arthritis from a very young age, Edward Burra created a large body of memorable images during his lifetime, featuring monumental scale and unusually powerful handling of the watercolour medium. Fascinated and influenced by his contempories Leger, Otto Dix, George Grosz and Picasso, as well as Hollywood and jazz music, his style is dominated by an eerie ability to find darkness in the everyday and his attraction to lowlife and outsiders.
Featuring some of Burra’s best known images of cafés, bars and nightclubs, as well as examples of other aspects of the artist’s oeuvre such as his fascination with the macabre and dark sides of humanity, his role as a talented designer for the stage and sensitive depictions of the British landscape, this new exhibition provides a unique opportunity to reassess Burra’s extraordinary creativity and impressive legacy.
Yet despite these many influences Burra remained distinct from most mainstream art movements though he was a member of the British art group Unit One and the English Surrealist Group in the 1930s and a close friend of the artist Paul Nash. Burra painted for himself, describing it as ‘a sort of drug’ and each of his paintings is unmistakably his own.
Many of the works on display at Pallant have been drawn from private collections as well as national collection such as Tate, National Portrait Gallery, Imperial War Museum and the V&A, and have not been shown in public for many years.
Till 19th February 2012
Pallant House Gallery
Words by Anna Bang
Tagsanna bang, Edward Burra, Leger, Otto Dix, Pallant House Gallery, picasso,