Contemporary Art Society Annual Report 1954-55

29 July 2015
Cover for the 1954-55 Contemporary Art Society Annual Report
Cover for the 1954-55 Contemporary Art Society Annual Report

Contemporary Art Society, Tate Gallery, Millbank, S.W.1.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother

Contemporary Art Society Executive Committee
Raymond Mortimer (Chairman)
Sir Colin Anderson (Hon. Treasurer)
E. C. Gregory (Hon. Secretary)
Edward Le Bas, R.A.
Hugo Pitman
Sir John Rothenstein, C.B.E.
Sir Philip Hendy
Howard Bliss
Eric Newton
W. A. Evill
Mrs. Cazalet-Keir
Peter Meyer
Eardley Knollys
Loraine Conran
Assistant Secretary Denis Mathews
Hon. Assistant Secretary Pauline Vogelpoel

The Chairman’s Report
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have only one piece of bad news for you; let me get it over at once. Our Honorary Treasurer, Sir Colin Anderson, has felt obliged to resign. As Treasurer, he has served your interests for eleven years with prudence tempered by justified optimism. The wonder is that a colossus of the shipping world should have been able and willing for so long to take so much trouble over not only the accounts but all the other concerns of the Society. On your behalf I wish to express deep gratitude for all his past services—and also a lively sense of favours to come; he remains a member of the Committee. When faced with his resignation, the Committee unanimously elected in his place Mr. Peter Meyer. We felt ourselves very fortunate in persuading him to undertake the duties of Honorary Treasurer, which are highly important but not highly enjoyable. The Society continues to progress with the unostentatious tenacity of a fearless tortoise ( I should prefer the leaps and bounds of a frightened hare).

During the last two years we have gained 415 new members—rather more, that is to say, than our total membership in 1946. On the other hand we always lose some members; last year there were sixty resignations; this year there have been only twenty-seven. Some of us, I am bound to say cease to subscribe without bothering to resign, perhaps without even intending to do so; and the size of our membership cannot therefore be stated with absolute exactitude. It is round about 1950.

Last year we spent £1,591 on acquisitions, and presented works to ninety museums. For 1956 we have an ambitious project. The Committee decided in the spring to organize, i f possible, another exhibition of its own. This could not be achieved, unless the Director and Trustees of the Tate were ready to house it. They generously consented; and we then decided to invite sculptors as well as painters to send us exhibits. At the suggestion of a sub-committee deputed to choose a subject for the painters and sculptors, we agreed upon ‘The Seasons’, which can be represented realistically, symbolically or abstractly. Sixty-two artists have accepted our invitation. We decided to allocate £1,000 for purchases from this exhibition, and furthermore to offer any museums wishing to buy one of the works 20 per cent of the cost. We hope that the exhibition will deserve and receive the attention of a large public, and attract many new members. None of us must expect to enjoy all the exhibits; some will doubtless protest that the exhibition is too conservative, others that it is not conservative enough. The Committee, in its invitation to artists has sought to maintain the traditional policy of the Society, which is to encourage the best contemporary art without any prejudice for or against any particular style or theory. The Exhibition is due to open on the 2nd March. The allocation of our recent purchases to museums will be made at about that time.

This year we have held loan exhibitions of works belonging to the Society at Plymouth, Cheltenham and Norwich. We have lent works also to exhibitions in the United States, Canada and Holland and to four in this country. We have lent works to hospitals, training colleges and the Architectural Association. The purchaser this year has been Mr. Howard Bliss, and the works that he has chosen include paintings by Christoforou, D. Hamilton Fraser, Lawrence Gowing, Louis le Brocquy, Victor Pasmore and David Tindle, watercolours or drawings by Peter King, Edward Middleditch, Denis Mathews, Paul Nash, Alan Reynolds and Sickert. The purchaser for 1954 Mr. Eardley Knollys, completed his duties since the last Annual meeting by acquiring paintings by Henry Lamb, Mary Potter and Anne Estelle Rice. I t has sometimes been suggested that the acquisitions of the Society reflect a narrow and prejudiced taste. Any such notion is surely refuted by the list of names I have just given. None of the purchases, I regret to say, are likely to satisfy the taste of Sir Alfred Munnings.

The privileges offered this year to members of the Society have been such, I hope, as to satisfy all of you. By the kindness of the Tate authorities we gave two evening parties, one for the Ben Nicholson show, and one for the Gauguin show. The collections we have been most generously invited to visit include those of Mr. Michael Astor, Mrs. Cartwright, Miss Watt and Miss Dolbey, and Mr. W. Evill. We were invited by Messrs. Bentall to see a mural painting by Stefan Knapp. The Directors of Marlborough Fine Art Ltd. gave us a sherry party and preview of their Desnoyer exhibition; Messrs. Roland, Browse and Delbanco treated us to two parties, one for their Guido Pajetta and Modigliani show, one for their Hayden and Ruskowski show. Such lavish hospitality leaves me fearing an ugly rush of new members interested in drinks rather than in contemporary art. The admirable report recently published by the Trustees of the National Gallery emphasizes the appalling inadequacy of the funds provided by the Government for the purchase of works of art. Our Society does all within its power to make up for the meanness of Parliament, but our resources are miserably limited. May I conclude therefore with an appeal I have made before. If we had twice as many members, we could buy three times as many pictures. Will each member cajole or bully a relation or friend to join the Society?

The Treasurer’s Report
The longest Treasurer’s reports are usually those which go with hard times and a sad-looking Bank Account. This year I am happy to tell you that the Treasurer’s Report is to be a very short one.
The Auditors themselves went so far as to express satisfaction and nobody would ask for more than that. As I have said before, it has always been our aim (or perhaps it could be put even more strongly than that—our determination) not to spend money that comes from subscriptions on parties that are for the entertainment of members. Again this year we have succeeded in this very proper aim. As a result, our purchasing power has not been encroached upon by our party-going expenses and it will interest you to know that we have been able to make purchases amounting to £11,500 during the last six years, all from our Members’ Subscriptions. Our expenses for the year to 31st September, 1954, are down against the corresponding period the year before by £396—on which Mr. Mathews must, I feel, be congratulated. We gained by not having to buy, as we did the year before, photographic equipment and a typewriter, but the main saving under this heading was a reduction of £216 in the cost of our Annual Report.

We have this year separated the costs of our exhibitions from those of our parties and you will observe that the surplus from parties goes a long way towards meeting expenses of our exhibitions also. You will agree that this is as it should be, so that our subscriptions, after paying for general expenses, are wholly available for purchases of pictures. The net cost of purchases by the Society for the year amounted to £1,591, of which the biggest single item of expenditure was our contribution of £500 for ‘The Portrait of Derain’ by Matisse.

It is most encouraging to note that our subscriptions are again higher and we hope these will continue to rise and that new members will complete the standard covenant so that income tax may be recovered on such subscriptions.

In conclusion, I am very glad to be able to report that we have virtually balanced our Revenue Account this year, whereas our commitments for the two preceding years produced on each Revenue Account a considerable deficit.

Purchases by the Society

Buyer: Howard Bliss
Phyllis Bray, Still Life
John Christoforou, Head of Woman
D. Hamilton Fraser, Beach with Cloudbanks and Cliffs
D. Hamilton Fraser, Red Landscape
D. Hamilton Fraser, Still Life
Lawrence Gowing, Window at Roquebrune
Ivon Hitchens, Red Spring 1955
Morris Kestelman, Mending Mullet nets
Louis le Brocquy, Ageing man Washing
Victor Pasmore, Motif in Indian Red and Mustard
Peter Potworowski, Window in Spain
David Tindle, Teazle
Buyer: Eardley Knollys
Henry Lamb, The Mourners
Mary Potter, Still Life with Roses
Anne Estelle Rice, The Bouquet
Watercolour s and Drawings
Buyer: Howard Bliss

S. W. Hayter, Wizard (Engraving)
Peter King, Series of fourteen Figure Studies (Drawings)
Edward Middleditch, Bull (Drawing)
Denis Mathews, Gathering Groundnuts (Drawing)
Paul Nash, Clearing in the Wood (Watercolour)
Paul Nash, A path through the Woods (Drawing)
Alan Reynolds, Winter Saga (Watercolour)
W. R. Sickert, Portrait of the Artist (Drawing)
Buyer: E. C. Gregory
Reg Butler, Studies for an Alternative Scheme 1952 (Coloured Drawing)
Reg Butler, Studies for three Heads of Watchers (Coloured Drawing)
Loans made by the Society
Art Organisations and galleries have arranged exhibitions in which they have included works from the Society’s acquisitions as follows:
To the British Council
‘Young British Sculptors 1955-1956’. United States and Canada
Eduardo Paolozzi, Bernard Meadows
‘Third International of Sculpture in the Open Air’. Zandspeke, Holland
Reg Butler
Finsbury Art Group
Robert Adams, Jankel Adler, William Gear, Charles Murray, William Scott
Oxford University Art Club, Ashmolean Museum
Alan Reynolds, D. Hamilton Fraser
Wakefeld City Art Gallery
Josef Herman, L . S. Lowry
The Beaux Arts Gallery
Martin Bloch (Memorial Exhibition)
The Leicester Galleries
Andre Masson (Retrospective Exhibition)

Loans to Colleges and Hospitals
Pictures have been lent to the following colleges and hospitals.
This succession of smaller exhibitions has been changed every few months and has been greatly appreciated by students, medical staff and patients.
Architectural Association
Bishop Otter College
British Electricity Training Centres
National Hospital for Nervous Diseases
Royal Marsden Hospital
St. Osytbs Training College

C.A.S. Loan Exhibitions
A number of complete exhibitions selected from the Society’s stock have been arranged.
Plymouth Art Gallery February-March
Cheltenham Art Gallery July-August Festival
Eric Atkinson, Jacob Bornfriend, John Bratby, Bernard Dunstan, Martin Froy, Duncan Grant, Roger de Grey, Josef Herman, Henry Moore, Bateson Mason, William Nessler, Eduardo Paolozzi, R. V. Pitchforth, Will Roberts, Leonard Rosoman, Adrian Ryan, Michael Rothenstein, Stella Steyn, Victor Willing.
Castle Museum, Norwich
Keith Vaughan, William Scott, Henry Lamb, Fred Uhlman, Prunella Clough, Mary Potter.

Grants In Aid to Galleries
Certain galleries asked for the Society’s help in acquiring particular pictures for which their gallery funds were insufficient. The majority of these were bought from the ‘Figures in their Setting’ Exhibition organized by the C.A.S. at the Tate Gallery.

John Armstrong, A Vision of St. Theresa, Preston
Bateson Mason, Sleeping Fisherman, Nottingham
Henri Matisse, Portrait of Derain, Tate Gallery
John Minton, Painter and Model, Bournemouth
Ben Nicholson, Painting 1937, Tate Gallery
Ben Nicholson, White Relief 1935, Tate Gallery
Julian Trevelyan, The Garage, Huddersfield

Further Allocations from the Sir Edward Marsh Bequest
Mark Gertler, Nude (drawing), South African National Gallery, Cape Town
Stanley Spencer, Head of Girl (drawing), South African National Gallery, Cape Town
Sir Oswald Birley, Portrait of Sir Edward Marsh, National Portrait Gallery, London

Gifts from the Society
Wyndham Lewis, Three Studies of Women (drawing), Tate Gallery
Wyndham Lewis, Crouching nude (drawing), Tate Gallery
George Grosz, Married Couple (drawing), Tate Gallery
George Grosz, Illustration for ‘Der Spiesser-Spiegel’ (drawing), Tate Gallery
Andre Masson, Mont St. Victoire (oil), Tate Gallery

Gifts to the Society
Donor: S. K. Ratcliffe, Esq.
William Ratcliffe, Hampstead High Street (watercolour drawing)
William Ratcliffe, House on Hampstead Heath (watercolour drawing)
William Ratcliffe, Farmyard (watercolour drawing)

Contemporary Art Society Occasions
C.A.S. Exhibition at the Tate Gallery
“The Seasons” Exhibition has been organised by the C.A.S. Fifty-eight painters and sculptors have each been invited to prepare a special work for it. The Exhibition remains open until April 15th. Entrance Fee 1/-, but free to members showing their card. Arrangements to view two Private Collections are being made and will take place in the early Spring.


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