It is 40 years since the Crane Gallery in Manchester held the first British exhibition of work by Celso Lagar, an unknown Spaniard who had once shared rooms with Modigliani and exhibitions with Soutine, and who had died, according to the Crane Gallery's catalogue, in unrecorded circumstances at the end of the Second World War.
Not so, came the news from France: Laga was alive, if not exactly well, in an asylum in Paris. Andras Kalman, of the Crane Gallery, investigated "... and found a gentle, dignified, handsome old man - also a broken man". Thanks to Kalman, a number of exhibitions followed in Paris, Spain and at the newly opened Crane Kalman Gallery in London. Lagar's fame spread, as did rumours of his supposed wealth, and before long, a sister appeared to take him back to Seville where he died, within the year, in 1966.
The present exhibition, a good selection of paintings and watercolours dating from 1912 to 1937 - the first in this country for 32 years - shows him to have been deeply influenced by his more famous friends. It was Picasso one minute, Vlaminck the next, Dufy, Derain and above all, Modigliani.
His most original, or at least most distinctive pictures were the melancholic circus scenes to which he so often returned - slightly clumsy paintings, but with a lingering and touching sadness. During his early life, these brought him some success, but after the death of his wife (the sculptor Hortense Begue) in 1956, he fell apart. His studio went up in flames and, resisting arrest, Lagar the accused arsonist, was strait-jacketed off to the asylum. He never painted again.
In the end, perhaps the story of his life is more memorable than any of his paintings but, as this exhibition shows, minor talents are often as revealing as major ones.
EYE ON THE NEW
Anyone who ever doubted that there was more to Laurie Anderson than the irritating strains of "O Superman" should make a date with Meltdown 1997 at London's South Bank Centre (to 6 Jul). Anderson is this year's guest director, and her installation, currently on (free) display in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall, Dancing in the Moonlight with her Wigwam Hair, promises a bizarre mix of talking parrots and synthetic snow. Information and bookings 0171-960 4242Reuse content