The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to
the British neo-Romantic tradition,
from 1880 to the present day.
While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of
publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions
remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden
tradition to light.
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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration
from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.
Characteristic themes in their work include a
mystical approach to the British landscape...
ENTRY: Craxton, John
John Craxton (b. London, 1918 or 1922 - sources differ), is
an English neo-Romantic painter.
The son of the composer and musician Harold Craxton, Craxton began to paint at around
age nine at Betteshanger School and - taught by the inspired art teacher Elsie Barling -
had exhibited in the Bloomsbury Gallery at age ten.
He applied for Chelsea School of Art but was considered to be too young to
attend nude life classes. He studied instead at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière
in Paris during 1939, until the outbreak of war meant he had to complete his studies
in London, at Westminster School of Art and the Central School of Art.
Between 1941 and 1942, having been rejected for military service, he attended Goldsmiths College,
then toured the wilds of Pembrokeshire with Graham Sutherland
in 1943. His first solo exhibition was in London in 1942 at the Swiss Cottage Café,
and his first major solo show at the Leicester Galleries in 1944. His work was part
of the neo-romantic revival, and his early pre-1945 work shows the influence of
Samuel Palmer and Graham Sutherland, and he was also heavily
influenced by friend and patron Peter Watson.
After the war he travelled to the Scilly Islands, Switzerland, Istanbul, Spain, Italy,
but mainly Greece and Crete, from 1946-1966. He moved permanently to Crete from about
1970, and he now switches between living in Crete and in London. The writer Richard
Olney remembered Craxton in Paris, en-route to Greece during the summer of 1951:
"Most nights, John Craxton, a young English painter, arrived to share my bed;
we kept each other warm. He moved in a bucolic dreamworld, peopled with beautiful
Greek goat herders. Soon he left for Greece."
In 1951 Craxton was a ballet designer for the Royal Ballet's
production of Daphnis and Chloë, at a time when ballet stage design provided a haven
for the neo-Romantic arts. He was able to use his first-hand experience of
Greece to inform his ballet designs.
He had numerous shows of his paintings in both England and Greece. A major retrospective
show was held at Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1967. His later work became more formal,
structured and decorative, although still expressing Romantic pastoral themes.
He produced the scenery and costumes for the Royal Opera House's 1968 production of
Igor Stravinsky's Apollo.
His work was also reproduced in magazines such as New Writing, Horizon,
and he has illustrated the books of Patrick Leigh Fermor. He produced lithographs
for several anthologies edited by Geoffrey Grigson, including
Visionary Poems (1944).
John Craxton: Paintings and drawings 1941-1966 (1967, 20 page exhibition catalogue)
Paintings, Drawings and Watercolours (1948, text by Geoffrey Grigson).