Artists Inspired by Nature – Robert Polhill Bevan 1865-1925
Another of my occasional posts on ‘Artists Inspired by Nature’. I first came across Robert Bevan’s paintings while researching for my two semi-historical non-fictional short stories set in South East Cornwall. He is the Great Grandfather of Patrick Baty, historian of architectural paint and colour. Patrick gave credence to my thoughts on the historical origins of colour and it’s use in paints, central to my stories.
Robert Bevan was born on the 5th August 1865 in Cuckfield West Sussex. The fourth of six children born to Richard Alexander Bevan and Laura Maria Polhill. He grew up on his father’s estate, where the country lifestyle, was later to have a clear influence on his paintings of horses and the farming landscape for which he became best known.
Robert went to School in Hove, and left in 1883 to attend Westminster Art School. He Joined the Fitzroy group of artists later known as The Camden Town Group in 1911. Of all the Camden Town Painters, Robert Bevan found continual interest in the agrarian countryside. Much of his work was painted with Charles Ginner and Spencer Gore on frequent trips to the Blackdown Hills in Somerset and Devon. This aspect of his work is allied with a tradition of English landscape painting extending back to Turner and Constable but nevertheless his approach was always forward looking.
It was at this time that one sees a brief flirtation with neo-Cubist forms. He was ahead of his time in the use of pure blocks of colour and geometric shapes, and was perhaps the first Englishman to use pure colour in the 20th Century.
In 1916 he took a cottage of his own in the Bolham Valley near Clayhidon and in early 1920 he moved to Marlpitts Cottage In Luppitt. By this stage he had softened the angular shapes and also his palette, although one still sees a certain stridency under sunlight. He was to die in the following year.
Robert Bevan was and is an outstanding artist of our time, important in his influence as an artist, and his draughtsmanship and use of colour were both quite original.
Works by him can be seen in most public collections throughout the country. Here is a selection put together by his great grandson, Patrick Baty ...