Thomas Nathaniel Davies 1922-1996. A retrospective exhibition

20 May 2009 – 19 Jun 2009

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Whitfield Fine Art

London, United Kingdom


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Thomas Nathaniel Davies 1922-1996. A retrospective exhibition


Whitfield Fine Art presents a major retrospective of painting, drawing and sculpture by Thomas Nathaniel Davies (1922-1996). The exhibition, to mark the opening of Whitfield Fine Art's new gallery space, is the first opportunity in over 20 years to view a substantial group of work by this somewhat overlooked but important Welsh artist, who was both a contemporary and friend of such artists as John Skeaping and Ceri Richards.

Despite being acquainted with these luminary artists, Nathaniel Davies did not receive the same recognition as his contemporaries during his lifetime. Very much a family man, he preferred to channel his energies towards his wife and four children rather than promoting his art. Yet his work is entirely relevant in the canon of 20th century British Art and is currently housed in public collections throughout the UK, including The Victoria and Albert Museum and The National Library of Wales. This retrospective aims to further accentuate Nathaniel Davies's reputation as one of the leading British artists of his time.

The exhibition is curated in a chronological sequence, starting with Nathaniel Davies's figurative work of the 1940s through to the abstraction of the 1960s and 1970s. It features over 40 paintings, sculptures and drawings and includes three works thought to have been lost, but which have subsequently been restored specifically for the exhibition. A number of the works are on loan from private collections and the artist's estate, while others will be available for sale for the first time.

As the artist himself once wrote: 'You are going to look at a painting. Take nothing with you ' no memories, no intellectual preparation, no sentiment, not even a canon of beauty. No preconceived idea will help, but go with nothing and maybe you will receive something.'


Thomas Nathaniel Davies was born in Dowlais, South Wales in 1922. Shunning a promising early career with Cardiff City football club, he enrolled at Cardiff College of Art in 1939, where he was taught and befriended by the painter Ceri Richards.

His studies were interrupted by the War and he was called up for service with The Royal Corps of Signals in North Africa. On his return he taught for a brief period at the Royal College of Art where the sculptor John Skeaping, a professor there, became a close friend. In 1947 he accepted a job at Newton Abbot Art School, before later becoming the Head of Art at South Devon College School in Torquay.

During this post-War period he produced paintings that reflected both his childhood in the grey steel town of Dowlais and the green landscape of his new life in Devon. It also marked an intense time of portrait painting, with influences ranging from Post-Impressionism to Picasso. His self-portraits from this period also form a small but masterly body of his work, in which the artist is searching out his real identity as an individual and as a painter in the aftermath of the War.

The 1950s saw a new confidence in Nathaniel Davies's work with the artist's style moving away from representational views; during the 1960s, he took an even bolder step towards abstraction. The boats in the harbour became fragmented, for example, and his portraits were pared down into simple geometric forms. In the early 1970s he produced large, clean, sparse paintings eschewing figuration entirely but, as always in his work, powerful definition of line was preeminent. Indeed at this time he produced a series of spot paintings and sculptures - some twenty years before Damien Hirst would think of his designs. This led him to begin to work more out of coloured perspex and wood. Nathaniel Davies retired as Head of South Devon College's school of Art in 1984. With less inclination to produce big paintings, he concentrated on woodcuts in his Newton Abbot studio. The artist died in 1996.

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