Friday evening saw Dorset County Museum’s Victorian Gallery filled with visitors eagerly awaiting their opportunity to get the first glimpse of the museum’s latest exhibition of John Craxton’s art (1922-2009); from his time in Dorset through to his days in Crete. The exhibition is a wonderful chance to see many of Craxton’s private paintings for the very first time. Never before has such an extensive collection of Craxton’s works been shown together and allows the spectator to experience and follow his journey as a man and an artist; from his early days in rural Dorset in war-time, to his discovery of the vibrancy of life in Greece.
‘Poetic Eye’ shows Craxton’s obsession and love of rural Dorset’s landscape and his torment and feelings of imprisonment which came from England in war-time. Ian Collins, curator of ‘Poetic Eye’, described Craxton’s time in Dorset as ‘the place where he really found himself’. Craxton’s love of Dorset is shown so clearly in his many depictions of the local landscape which Collins’ attributes to his ‘love of Dorset, of the landscape, of the mythology of Dorset, and the legends of Dorset’.
The latter half of his career, and shown beautifully within the exhibition, depicts his transformation as an artist when he moved to Crete. The vibrancy of colours which he uses shows his true development as an artist and as a man who during his time in Greece brought out of him. The exhibition is very much Dorset based and shows an artist who wasn’t concerned with selling his paintings or even being part of the ‘art scene’ and has consequently, been ignored. ‘Poetic Eye’ uncovers one of Europe’s great artists of 20th Century and one of Europe’s most forgotten artists.
The Opening: Sir David Attenborough and the man behind the paintings.
Dorset County Museum warmly welcomed Sir David Attenborough and renowned art critic, Hilary Spurling to officially open the exhibition. Guests at the museum, were treated to Sir David and Hilary’s own personal accounts of what this exhibition meant to them. Sir David, who was close friend of John Craxton for over twenty five years, as well as a collector of his art works, gave a personal insight into not only Craxton the artist but Craxton the man. Sir David began by congratulating Dorset County Museum on securing such an important exhibition which shows both sides of John Craxton’s journey as an artist; from his war-time yearnings of an introverted painter, to his invention of line and use of coloured line to capture the vibrancy and colour of Crete. Sir David told amusing stories about his friend’s dislike for parting with his works, telling tales of Craxton taking pictures back after he had bought them because he wouldn’t accept they were perfected. Sir David described the exhibition as combining, ‘meaning, excitement and vibrancy’ as well as giving a heartfelt thanks to both Ian Collins, the curator of the exhibition, and Dorset County Museum for bringing Craxton back to Dorset and giving him the recognition as one of England’s great artists that he so deserves.
Hilary Spurling echoed Sir David’s gratitude to Dorset County Museum describing ‘Poetic Eye’ as bringing back to life a painter that has been previously ‘forgotten’. She went on to describe the exhibition as, ‘rediscovering Craxton and showing him in a richness and fullness that his contemporaries never had the chance to see’. She closed her thought-provoking speech by saying, ‘Craxton is very lucky to have Ian and we are also very lucky because it is us who reap the fruits’.
All that’s left to say, is don’t miss your chance to visit Dorset County Museum and see the ‘Poetic Eye’ exhibition which has so many people captivated by a man who’s paintings have previously gone under the radar. Craxton seems to finally be getting the recognition he deserves as one of Dorset’s and Europe’s great artists and the people of Dorset welcome home one of their great achievers.
A Poetic Eye: John Craxton on Cranborne Chase and Crete. exhibition is running until 19th September 2015. For more information, please visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or contact the museum directly on 01305 756827