A fresh to market work by acclaimed bohemian artist Francis John Minton

We are pleased to be offering this early, fresh-to-market, work by acclaimed Bohemian artist Francis John Minton in our 23rd March Twentieth Century Design auction.

Minton was a prolific artist who also produced illustrations for Elizabeth David's influential cookbook 'A Book of Mediterranean Food' and the Leader Magazine, as well as posters for London Transport, wallpapers, stage sets and textiles. His tragically short life encapsulated a very particular moment in British art history; from early success with exhibitions at LeFevre Gallery and the Royal Academy, through a short stint in the Pioneer Corps during WWII, heady days as part of the Soho art scene (counting Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon amongst his friends), to influencing young artists while teaching at Camberwell College of Arts, the Central School of Art & Design, and the Royal College of Art. Minton's art reflected both his surroundings and his innermost feelings; ranging from gloomy bomb-scarred urban scenes, pastoral landscapes, and touching portraits of friends & lovers, to later colourful views from his travels in the West Indies. 

John Minton committed suicide in 1957 at the age of 39. It is thought that he felt artistically side-lined by the incoming abstract art trend, which was compounded by his on-going struggle with his homosexuality in a less tolerant age, and an increasing reliance on alcohol. 

Examples of Minton's work are held by the Tate, Leeds Art Gallery, and in the Royal College of Art collection amongst others, while a major exhibition to mark Minton's centenary took place last summer at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. 

This particular painting was produced while Minton was studying at St John's Wood School of Art (1935-1938), and greatly influenced by fellow student Michael Ayrton's enthusiasm with the work of neo-romantic artists. It is referenced in Frances Spalding's 1991 biography of John Minton 'Dance till the Stars Come Down' as follows;

"Eric Newton… praised the Group as a whole for imposing simplicity of form on difficult subjects but regretted a certain heavy-handedness and a lack of spontaneity in the handling of paint. These criticisms also apply to the picture with which Minton won a prize for composition during his last term at the Wood and which he gave to Ken Lawrence. Its careful arrangement of allegorical figures and a unicorn on a shore again testify to his study of Italian art"

Minton gave the painting to Ken Lawrence, who was an old school friend from their time together at Reading School between 1932-35. The current owner inherited the painting from Lawrence in 1990, but remembers it hanging in his home from the late 1940s onwards. 

John Minton (1917-1957) - Allegorical scene with figures and unicorn on a shoreline, oil on canvas, signed 'Minton' top left, further annotated to frame verso, 76 x 61cm. Est. £2000-3000.


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