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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003