Contemporary Art Market: Nudes inspired by past masters: The 19th century aids modern concerns

ONE OF Britain's greatest figure painters, Michael Leonard, is having his first London show for five years at Thomas Gibson Fine Art (44 Old Bond Street, W1). Since about 1980 he has combined portraits of the nobs of the art world - Lord Palumbo, Doris Saatchi, A Alfred Taubman - with exploring the visual possibilities of the nude. This show is mainly nudes.

Leonard has looked to the great draughtsmen of the 19th century for inspiration. His men and women are towelling themselves like Degas bathers; the smooth, high finish of his paint echoes Ingres; his drawings, rubbing soft pencil on paper to make smooth gradations between light and shade, use a technique pioneered by Seurat.

The point of the pictures belongs to the 1990s, however. They are abstract explorations of form and tone within the prescribed framing contour; his edges, and just how they cut across the naked figure, are very important to him.

Leonard used to exhibit at Fischer Fine Art, the very distinguished Mayfair contemporary gallery which closed last year. Always something of an 'outsider' in the contemporary scene, he tried showing with the New York Old Master dealers Rosenberg and Stiebel in 1992, and has now turned to Gibson, primarily a specialist in classic 19th- and 20th-century art.

The gallery, where works are often priced in hundreds of thousands of pounds, makes Leonard look as if he must be very expensive; so far only three paintings and two drawings have sold. In fact, the paintings are priced from pounds 6,000 to pounds 12,000 and the drawings from pounds 2,000 to pounds 2,500. The latter are particularly good value: they are very highly finished and complete, and treat the same subjects as the paintings on a smaller scale.

At the Jill George Gallery (38 Lexington Street) there is another artist who takes his cue from Degas. Crawfurd Adamson, 40 this year, is 20 years younger than Leonard and more farouche. Like Ingres and Delacroix, they represent the battle of line and colour: Leonard, the draughtsman with a magical control of line, Adamson, the colourist who builds his drawing from blazing touches of colour.

Most of Adamson's paintings represent single, naked figures; unlike Leonard, who eschews the narrative, he seeks to convey the sitter's life and anxieties from the positions they adopt. He uses no preparatory drawing but starts to splash paint straight on to the canvas, then teases his images out of the gloom. Of 30 works on show, 21 have sold. The prices for full-scale paintings run from pounds 1,600 to pounds 6,000.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence