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Gulley Jimson [1918-1982]


[From the catalogue-in-progress for “Landscapes & Livestock”, a loan exhibition for Agincourt Homecoming in the Fall of 2015]

JIMSON, Gulliver / Gulley [1918–1982]

Study for “The Raising of Lazarus”


oil on wood panel / 9 inches by 12 inches

Eccentric British artist, Gulley Jimson—immortalized in Joyce Cary’s novel The Horse’s Mouth—would not have wanted to be a member of a club that would have him. A “man of the people” who offended potential patrons with visceral subjects rudely presented, yet collectors competed to own his “kitchen sink realism”.

Jimson found his models in, of, and on the streets of London. Such was probably the case for his monumental “Raising of Lazarus” painted in 1959: a collection of calloused, bunioned, rheumatoid, and arthritic feet abused by Britain’s docks and mills and farm fields and war. Such feet today are the more likely consequence of fashion. This small study was one of several he created for each new work.

During a history class field trip to London in the summer of 1987, NINC senior Emma Spofford found this painting in the famous Portobello Road Flea Market. After authenticating it as a genuine Jimson, she gave it to the Community Collection for a charity auction. The work was never offered for sale.

The lack of an illustration is easily explained: I haven’t painted it yet. But with advice like this from my artist-advisor Jonathan Rutter, how can the mark elude me:

Don’t romanticize the feet. Paint directly and heavily. Enjoy the sinews, the veins, the discolorations, the calloused knobs, the not-quite-right-ness of every toe. And take some license with your palette.

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