A VIEW OF ROME WITH ST PETER'S, FROM THE PINCIAN HILL
Watercolour heightened with bodycolour
29 x 44.5 cm
Charles Cundall was a highly respected, prolific and accomplished artist; one whose manner sits outside the turbulent artistic revolutions that took place throughout his life among his contemporaries and friends. He was born in Lancashire but spent his early childhood in Australia and the Philippines. He returned to England in his teens and from seventeen he was an apprentice at Pilkington's Pottery Company, painting lustre-ware. In 1912 he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Art, but had his time there cut short by the war. He was injured at the battle for the Bois de Fourceaux and consequently lost the use of his right hand, thereafter painting with his left. Demobbed, he went back to the RCA but transferred to the Slade to study under the formidable duo of Henry Tonks and Philip Wilson Steer.
Cundall moved to Paris in 1920 and enrolled at the influential Academie Colarossi. This had been founded as a counterpoint to the conservative academic style of the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and Cundall's contemporaries and fellow alumni included several of the Scottish Colourists, Camille Claudel (Rodin's assistant) and a large number of Americans. Between 1921-1922 Cundall made two lengthy trips to Italy, painting in Orvieto, Fiesole, Florence, Rome and Assisi and all around the country. On repeat trips throughout his life he was to add most of Umbria, Genoa, Verona, the Lakes, Perugia, Lucca and Amalfi.
He married fellow artist Jacqueline Pietersen, herself a student at the RCA, in 1923, the same year as his first solo exhibition at the Grosvenor Galleries (he was to have five solo exhibitions in his lifetime). During WWII he was given the honour of being one of the 37 Official War Artists to be salaried by the War Artist's Advisory Committee.
Cundall was one of the best-travelled artists of his generation and his childhood abroad is generally regarded as the cause for his instinctive love of travel. His paintings record America, Russia, Sweden, Canada and South Africa, as well as much of mainland Europe. France and Italy were his preferred destinations and yielded new sights and views in undiscovered areas for him each time he returned.
In terms of his style Cundall was unerring; and an analysis of his lifetime body of work would pay tribute to his artistic instinct. It is a testament to his skill that he found a manner which was entirely his own quite so early on. His influences were Gainsborough, Constable, Stubbs, Corot and the Impressionists. The latter group doubtless informed his great appreciation of light and atmosphere as well as inspiring his working technique: he would sketch in situ, often producing numerous sketches with colour notes which slowly built up the view, to be worked on later in oil in his Chelsea studio. In making these studies Cundall often experimented with squared paper, tracing paper and celluloid and these techniques frequently required him to overlay sheets as the image expanded - almost like the antique maps of the pre-Renaissance.
Today more than 100 of Cundall's works can be found in public collections across Britain, including the Imperial War Museum, the British Museum, the Manchester Art Gallery, the National Maritime Museum and the National Museums of Wales.
(1) Charles Cundall - A Working Method (ed. Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss), Liss Llewellyn Fine Art (2016)