A founding member of the British Surrealist Group, Julian Trevelyan (1910–1988) was at the centre of a defining moment in British 20th century art. He was an original participant of the Mass Observation project and embraced a wide variety of styles from surrealism to realism and abstraction.
So why is he not better known?
Through over 100 paintings and prints this exhibition reaffirms Trevelyan’s significant contribution to British art. It celebrates his distinctive visual language which reflects an enduring appetite for experimentation.
The first comprehensive retrospective of the artist in over 20 years, the exhibition marks the 30th anniversary of the artist’s death and is co-curated by James Scott and Ariane Bankes.
After contributing to Britain’s first Surrealist statement, Trevelyan abandoned Cambridge for Paris in 1931 where he worked in Stanley William Hayter’s printmaking studio with Alberto Giacometti, André Masson, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. His early work was influenced by these artists as well as Max Ernst and Paul Klee, but he went on to develop his own unique style.
As one of the first participants of Mass Observation, which to this day depicts everyday life in Britain, Trevelyan spent a month in Bolton’s industrial streets, painting and creating collages from his suitcase full of materials. During this time he became interested in ‘Sunday painters’ and championed the self-taught group of Ashington Miners, known today as the ‘Pitmen Painters’.
A keen traveller, Trevelyan’s adventures took him abroad to North Africa with the Industrial Camouflage Unit and to the Mediterranean with his second wife, the celebrated painter Mary Fedden. From 1956 he was Head of Printmaking at the Royal College of Art where he shared his love of the process with students including David Hockney, R.B Kitaj and Norman Ackroyd. His home and workplace for over 30 years was at the Durham Wharf studios on the banks of the River Thames at Hammersmith, now under development by Turner Prize winning architecture studio Assemble.