B.A.R. Carter

Painter of the Euston Road School who became an erudite teacher and an authority on perspective


Bernard Arthur Ruston Carter, painter and teacher: born Kenilworth, Warwickshire 15 October 1909; Professor of Perspective, Royal Academy Schools 1975-83; married 1978 Jane Ford; died Mousehole, Cornwall 18 March 2006.

In a world where art merit is commonly judged by price and media coverage, artists and teachers like B.A.R. Carter get scant recognition. Yet a few shrewd peers know their worth. Several generations of students at leading London art schools benefited from "Sam" Carter's erudition, including many who have dominated British painting of the last half-century. If he had taught less, Carter would have been much better known as a painter.

In the 1930s Carter had met the Bloomsbury painter Duncan Grant, who was associated with the Euston Road School, founded in the autumn of 1937 and under the direction of Claude Rogers, Victor Pasmore and William Coldstream. Carter became one of the School's most regular attenders during its brief existence and, according to its historian, Bruce Laughton, one "of its most talented students".

The School's strict realist ethic and obsessive system of measuring was a legacy that was to influence English art education for decades. A notable characteristic was the small registration marks left on the finished canvas, irritating to many viewers and particularly evident in the work of Coldstream and Euan Uglow, the latter a painter much admired and collected by Carter. These marks were covered over in his own work, even though a scrupulous sense of proportion underlies the paint.

Pre-Euston Road landscapes and still-lifes by Carter could have a dashing, what he called "gutsy", quality that I remarked on when interviewing him some years ago. "I slapped the paint on then," he said. Such work prompted a Daily Telegraph reviewer of the time to call Carter "the coming man." But, "the Euston Road School ruined me," Carter rather surprisingly remarked. "It made me cautious. You got to depend on the measuring and couldn't do without it in the end."

He was born Bernard Arthur Ruston Carter in 1909 in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. His father, from a poor background, who became a schools inspector and history textbook writer of note, wanted him to enter the diplomatic service. So the groundwork was laid. Carter lived with a family in France and learned perfect French before gaining a good degree in the modern languages tripos at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, 1930-32. There were also studies at Grenoble and Innsbruck Universities.

But Carter was already developing a passion for art. Although he claimed no great natural ability, while at Cambridge he drew and created posters. His father suggested that he might eventually become a schools inspector, as a teacher offering languages and crafts. With a small allowance Carter studied cabinet-making, obtaining a City and Guilds School qualification, which in old age he told me "has stood me in good stead."

He also studied part-time at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. He was taught wood engraving by John Farleigh, other teachers being Fred Porter, William Roberts and Bernard Meninsky. "Meninsky would sit down and draw a figure, which showed you that you knew nothing and how brilliant he was."

He had begun in the antique room with the painter John Cooper, who from the mid-1920s at the Bow and Bromley Evening Institute had founded and run the East London Group which in the 1930s had a string of shows at the prestigious gallery Alex, Reid & Lefevre. Carter attended Cooper's Bow drawing classes and showed with the Group.

The Second World War that saw the disappearance of the East London Group and Euston Road School prompted Carter to join the Auxiliary Fire Service. Although this interrupted his art studies and painting, he did manage to paint a fine portrait of Basil Rocke, another Euston Roader, in Fire Service uniform.

Pasmore, who had complained that Carter's work was too "generalised" when he was interviewed for Euston Road, helped him join the staff of the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in 1945. He remained for four years, taking several classes, initially one in the junior school "of 30 lads - riotous!"

Camberwell was heavily staffed by ex-Euston Roaders. When an exhibition "The Euston Road School and Others" travelled from Wakefield City Art Gallery, in 1948, and the Arts Council toured "The Euston Road School" in 1948-49, Carter's pictures were well represented.

When Coldstream moved from Camberwell to become Slade Professor of Fine Art at the Slade School, Carter in 1949 was invited to join the staff and remained for about 30 years. At first, he said,

I had no interest in perspective, so had to mug it up, also researching optics. The Graves Library

at University College, normally not easy to get into, had books in many languages on perspective and I would take them home.

Coldstream assembled an artistically and intellectually high-powered team at the Slade, including the art historians Ernst Gombrich and Rudolf Wittkower. Wittkower and Carter collaboratively published learned articles. Such scholars had a high regard for Carter, who became an authority on perspective, contributing a long and magisterial article on it for the 1970 Oxford Companion to Art. He would have liked to have written a book on the subject, he said, "but I hate writing".

He also became an expert on the work of the 15th-century Italian master Piero della Francesca, creator of some of the most serene images in Western art. Carter's analysis and his plan of the geometry of works such as the The Flagellation, in the Ducal Palace at Urbino, won wide critical praise and informed generations of students.

His teaching, scholarly researches and writing undoubtedly robbed Carter of easel time. He continued to enjoy painting landscapes when he stayed in Somerset with his painter friend Robert Organ and elsewhere. As well as the East London Group and Euston Road School exhibitions, he contributed to the London Group and for years his small, meticulous still-lifes were a feature of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

Carter just failed to get elected to the Academy although, in 1975, on the recommendation of Sir Tom Monnington, he was made Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy Schools, a post held until 1983. He offered the students a thorough course, although when I interviewed him he was dismissive of the perspective teaching. Maybe the times were against it. "You'd get a few who'd pursue it, but not many students were interested" by the time he left.

In 1978, Carter married Jane Ford, a young, Cornwall-based painter who had studied at the Slade, Carter among her teachers, and had modelled for Coldstream. Carter remained in the house in Frognal, Hampstead, which he had bought in the 1950s, until he moved to join her in Mousehole four years ago.

There he lived happily and, although in his nineties, his mind would "click back into action" in conversation, recalls Organ. Carter was able to lend some of his lecture notes to the painter Ken Howard, who was living next door. By an amazing coincidence, Howard was in 2005 appointed Royal Academy Schools Professor of Perspective, the position Carter had held with such distinction.

Carter is well represented in notable public collections. In his lifetime the Tate Gallery, Arts Council, Chantrey Bequest, Ministry of Works, London Museum, Contemporary Art Society and Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne acquired his pictures.

David Buckman

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Systems and Network Support Analyst

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: IT Systems Support Analyst

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests