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Artist of the week
Reg Eldridge

"...I'm in my eighty-seventh year, getting on for ninety, and I have just gone on drawing and drawing and drawing." Reg Eldridge.

This October Londonart.co.uk and The Sun and Doves present the first survey exhibition of the English artist Reg Eldridge. The exhibition; A Camberwell Beauty, aptly titled after a large and striking butterfly rarely seen in Britain and Ireland, but which occasionally arrives in large numbers, will be the first major commercial exhibition of Eldridge's work in London for over 20 years. The show will feature works spanning a 50-year period, including large canvases and a selection of his drawings on paper.

Eldridge was born in 1919 and from 1937 to 1939 studied Portrait Painting and Life Drawing at the Clapham School of Art. During the war Eldridge was a member of teaching staff at the Royal Artillery School in Deepcut with the prominent British Sculptor Kenneth Armitage, who became a good friend and life drawing partner.

"We started going to Farnham Art School. Halfway through the War they started running Life classes again. We used to get transport over there, two or three of us, in an evening for Life Drawing, Armitage, me and another couple of fellows."

Subsequently Eldridge studied at Chelsea under Vivian Pitchforth RA and at St Martins under Ruskin Spear RA and Derrick Greaves. Best known for his offbeat, semi-abstract bronze figures, Armitage went on to be appointed the Head of Sculpture at the Bath Academy of Art, as Eldridge's work gathered attention exhibiting with the London Group in the 1950's.

Established in 1913 as an alternative to the RA, the London Group history has led it through some of the most innovative periods in British art. Members have included such names as Epstein, Bomberg, Sickert, Hepworth, Moore, Piper, Heron, Frink and, in more recent years, Auerbach, Hockney, Bellany, Tricia Gillman, Michael Kenny, Paula Rego and Anthony Whishaw.

Appropriately exhibiting with the eminent Royal Society of British Artists and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, whose members have included distinguished names such as James McNeilI Whistler, Walter Sickert, Fantin Latour, Ann Redpath and more recently Peter Greenham RA, Eldridge, was invited to exhibit with The Royal Society of Portrait Painters in the early 1970's. Following in the footsteps of some of the society's most distinguished portrait painters Eldridge successfully exhibited with them for a period of over twenty years until 1995.

In the mid 1970's after a succession of high profile portrait commissions and establishing himself as a distinguished British Portrait Painter, Eldridge controversially decided to decline from undertaking all portrait commissions. This decision was driven by a strong belief that while an artist was following a commercial brief he wasn't able to produce his most creative and inspired work.

Since making this decision over thirty years ago, Eldridge has gone on to produce some of his most arresting and fluid, portrait, landscape and life paintings and drawings, many of which have been kept private until now. During this period, Eldridge worked as a black cab driver, driving through the night and painting through the day. Even now, when he is not organising and running Life Painting classes in Southwark he can sometimes be found in his black cab.

At 86 Eldridge's life and art is unequivocally tied. However convoluted his life became; his art always remained a constant. With work in private collections worldwide, notably in the USA, Japan and South America, Eldridge's landscape paintings provide us with lyrical views of the English countryside but his nudes, his fascination with work in the Life Room, hold the greatest impact. The Times columnist Richard Morrison selected Reg Eldridge's 'Prisoner of Love', a life room study, as his favorite painting from over 300 at The Art of Love 2005 Open at the.gallery@oxo on London's South Bank in February this year.

Looking back over the course of Reg's life, his devotion to his art has been unwavering. The exhibition; A Camberwell Beauty will re introduce an exceptionally talented artist who has never been swayed by the prevailing fashions and movements of the 20th Century.

View Reg Eldridge's painting gallery.

View Reg Eldridge's drawing gallery.
 

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