Artist and teacher Stanley Lewis, who died last year at the age of 103, painted every single day for 84 years. Yet despite his remarkable talent and prolific work ethic, the first major exhibition of this little-known artist is yet to be held. It opens on Saturday alongside works from the Cecil Higgins Collection by Lewis’ tutors, friends and influences, including William Rothenstein, Augustus John and Stanley Spencer.
Lewis’s work is characteristic of a generation of modern British artists in the early 20th Century, who saw drawing as primary and fundamental to their work. Throughout his career he remained faithful to the distinctive graphic manner he developed whilst at the Royal College of Art. He remained faithful also to his subject matter, consistently drawing on his rural upbringing in Wales and his affinity with the land for inspiration.
Lewis turned down the offer of contracts from art dealers and galleries during his lifetime, preferring to work without constraints on what he should produce, choosing instead to earn a much-needed income through teaching. Asked aged 103 if he was ready for his first ever show, Stanley puffed on his cigar and with a faint chuckle replied, “I think I am ready”. Shortly before he died he wrote “when my exhibition is up and running, open a good bottle of champagne and celebrate…no doubt I will be there in spirit to keep an eye on things”.
'The Unkown Artist: Stanley Lewis and his contemporaries' exhibition opens Saturday 12th June to Sunday 5th September at the Bedford Gallery, Castle Lane, Bedford www.bedfordmuseum.org