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Royal Academy Life Room (detail) - Drawn in 1966

Royal Academy Life Room (detail) - Drawn in 1966

Medium:Graphite on paper

Royal Academy Life Room - Drawn in 1966


In 1966 many young artists were experimenting with more abstract ways of working. Some remained highly representational, artists with a diversity of styles worked along side each other; there was an exchange of ideas, techniques and experiences which was extremely valuable.

The entrance was to the rear of Burlington House in Saville Row and adjacent to The Musium of Mankind. Across the street, Cork Street housing a wide range of famous galleries where many of my contemporaries now exhibit. Old Bonn Street Housed The Malborough Galleries to the left, and to the right, The Apple Building home to the Beatles.'Come back Joe Joe' was to be played from the roof of the building, the event drew quite a crowd blocking the traffic in the narrow roads.

A number of artists using the studios at that time were destined to become well known and influential. George Rowlett (who appeared in the opening sequence of the film 'Blow Up' worked very much in the style of Frank Aurbach. Chris Wood played the flute in a band called 'Traffic' making 'Elephants Eye' a hit single. David Whitaker who originated from Blackpool, was a prolific abstract artist who originally produced huge shaped canvases, later to work in brilliantly coloured bands by rolling acrylic colour over stretched string, metulously placed. Jimmy low produced multiple shaped canvases with pure bright colour, that were assembled to make a whole design, he won the Peter Stiverson Prize.

In 1966 Peter Greenham was the resident Keeper and Walter Woodington the Curator. The lengthy corridors were full of classical casts, The Layocoon was full size, a horse by George Stubbs stood to display its anatomy outside the keeper's office. John Honney, a superbly diciplined sculptor created an analytical facsimile of 'A Florentine Bust by Settigniano' producing multiple casts in the sculpture studios. Honney is also a renowned photographer of considerable quality.

The atmosphere could be electric with wit and humour with the ocassional heated exchange of opinions over the work being carried out. This would fade as artists melted into the various studios when a silent sombre ambience would descend.

The Life Room was extremely large, with a further studio at the rear, the walls were lined with vertical panels of wood, painted a mid grey. There was a detachment between the nude models and those working in the arena. Artists gave instructions for posing by agreement with those present and with a courtesy towards the needs of the model.

Anthony Ayreton often worked in gouache, with a slow careful precision. Charles Mahoney, then elderly would instruct by making a classical study on the side of the paper that specialised in diagonal shading.

As evening drew in, the London light would fade through the huge sloping windows, running around the arena. Lights, hung from a circular frame, illuminating the scene with a soft glow. It was not impossible to be the only artist sitting in, in which case the models where yours by command. One felt powerful yet vulnerable at the same time.

To sit in a place once occupied by John Constable and Joseph William Mallord Turner, generated a great sense that there was a renowned tradition of drawing, that one had joined a family.

The drawing (above) was admired by Frank Aurbach when he visited my studio You can clearly see many of the details described here.

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