Leonard McComb RA

June 20, 2019 § Leave a comment

Leonard McComb began as a sculptor and moved to painting, flecking his large watercolours from a sable brush with a trail of colour. There is even one made up of, I believe, 91 A1 sheets of paper, of the cliff outside the house of his mother in North Wales. Of remaining sculptures, there are not many. But the figure of Young Man Standing  has a profound mystery to the work, a compacted energy about to burst. It is there in its the 7/8ths scale and proportion. His presence follows you round the room in which you encounter him .

I remember the evenings in his Brixton house and studio in the late nineteen seventies, when his then wife Barbara, equally mysterious, wafer-thin from not eating properly, often prepared a dinner overwhelmed by coriander, which she did not and could not taste. I think she was really his model, his muse, and there are many portraits of her or females exceedingly like her. Len was always immaculately dressed in a suit and white shirt, sometimes open at the neck, but more likely with a cravat loosely tied, or even a dark overcoat worn indoors, and supple and worn Oxford shoes. It seemed to me that it was the tradition of the Slade School to be so immaculately dressed, and I could only contrast it with the casualness of most of the artists I knew. I guess all that formality showed in the mannerism of their paintings, but in Len’s case it was never quite the eccentricity of a Stanley Spencer and his loaded pram. Len was somehow always more upright.

He had destroyed much of his early work on a fire in the back-garden of his Brixton house. A man of firm and even entrenched prejudice, of the obduracy of a Balthus. It is said that he tried to persuade Peter Blake not to include so-called Conceptual Art in a Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, saying that there were enough artists genuinely responding to Nature for it to be unnecessary for a glass of water to represent an oak tree.





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