Angus Wilson – No Laughing Matter, 1967

eric ravilious firle beacon 1927 458x377mmBook 2. II.  1935.

Mary shouted to him:

‘Now what was naughty was your stopping Jack buying that Pevensey painting of Lionel’s. Monty’s furious. It’s one of Lionel’s best. And you know how well he’s been painting lately. You must have read what Monty’s been saying.’

‘He’s praised Lionel’s work every week for so long as I can remember and  it hasn’t got any better or any worse. He still paints without imagination let alone a spark of genius. And uses three shades of shit to do so.’

‘Oh colour! You live in such a schoolgirl’s dream of Bakst. Lionel’s a subtle and expressive painter. Expressive of plastic values, I mean, of course.’

‘Subtle! Really, Mary! Lionel’s one of the most pleasing friends we have.
He’s a real person, intelligent, civilized and absolutely without nonsense.
His paintings are exactly like him. But they aren’t any good. I mean any real good. And I won’t have them here with real paintings. That terrible Chanctonbury Ring with the Picassos and that bit of fake Cézanne of the Downs right beside Braque’s Homage to Bach. It’s too impossible.’

‘You speak as though you were the only person in England who did justice to Picasso or Braque. You know what Monty’s done to to make people realize that Paris exists, and against what opposition and from the start.’

‘Yes, and then praises Lionel because he makes Pevensey Marshes look like the Camargue and Firle Beacon like a sea-sick memory of Cézanne’s Provence.’

‘You’re talking about an old friend, Marcus.’


Angus Wilson, 1913-1991                    No Laughing Matter,1967

Image: Eric Ravilious, Firle Beacon, 1927. watercolour

The novel is a satirical chronicle of an English middle-class family from 1912 to 1967. Marcus Matthews, and Mary Clough are discussing the paintings of Lionel who is representative of the watered down English illustrative version of French post-Impressionist painting, but lacking both ideas and energy. The artist might be suggested by the works of painters such as Eric Ravilious, Paul Nash, John Nash or Duncan Grant.


Author: jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space

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