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Glyn Philpot: Artist at the Crossroads

Part 5: Crisis

Philpot’s conversion to European modernism in the early 1930s provoked widespread hostility, yet he felt compelled to simplify his artistic style and way of life. Weary of producing virtuoso portraits, he explained that ‘new modes of expression are continually necessary if the artist is to add to the sum of beauty in the world. In my own case the change has been towards a simplification of technique, a simplification of form.’

As a juror at the Carnegie International Exhibition of 1930, he encountered Picasso, and for the first time became interested in contemporary French art. The following year he abandoned the clutter of his London home for Paris. Trips to Berlin introduced him to the city’s homosexual sub-culture, precipitating an emotional crisis, and a move toward greater spiritual expression in his art. Adversely, however, his income and reputation also fell away. Although, in the mid-thirties, interest in his work began to recover, years of hardship probably contributed to his early death. World War II, and the post-war wave of new artists, inhibited the development of his posthumous reputation, so that only recently have critics begun to notice him again.

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