Wednesday, 20 October 2021

From Henley wartime evacuee to the Royal Academy of Arts

THE work of an artist evacuated to Henley during the Second World War has returned to

THE work of an artist evacuated to Henley during the Second World War has returned to the town — as the focus of a show that has just opened at the Bohun Gallery in Reading Road.

Elected to the Royal Academy in 1978, Sandra Blow (1925-2006) is today regarded as one of the greatest abstract painters of the 20th century.

She left school at 15 and in 1940 entered Saint Martin’s School of Art in central London, where her work was championed by one of the tutors, Ruskin Spear.

The following year her studies were interrupted as, with the Blitz intensifying, she and other young students were evacuated to Henley.

Happily, she was later able to return to Saint Martin’s, where she remained enrolled until 1946, later studying at the Royal Academy Schools from 1946 to 1947 and the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome from 1947 to 1948.

Bohun Gallery manager Katie Newman said: “Sandra Blow is recognised as one of the most progressive figures in 20th century British art and this exhibition will be an opportunity for collectors to see examples of her original paintings and collages gathered together under one roof, including two of her celebrated ‘six-footers’.

“The show will also include smaller collages which illustrate her use of easily manipulated collage materials, like torn paper and sackcloth and brightly coloured canvas cut-outs, which cover her picture space.

“The Matisse-inspired decorative manner of her later career is well represented in colourful works such as Blue Abstract and Red Squares.

“The exhibition also presents an overview of her printmaking, with a range of silkscreens from the latter part of her working career. Her uncompromising approach pushed printmaking techniques to new boundaries with the introduction of hessian, film and cloth, forming a collaged and sculptural aspect to the prints.

“The original silkscreens by Blow offer a very affordable way to own a piece of work by one of the 20th century’s most pioneering artists and Bohun Gallery’s exhibition is a good opportunity for new collectors.”

A pioneering abstract painter, Sandra Blow worked on a grand scale, allowing for the exploration of space, movement and texture.

Endlessly innovative, her art was constantly developing, evolving into abstraction under the tutorage of Alberto Burri in Italy during the late Forties and later with Roger Hilton in St Ives, Cornwall — the artistic community where she was eventually to make her home.

Despite her youth, she came to prominence during the Fifties with a solo show at the Institute of Contemporary Art and solo shows with Gimpel Fils in London and New York.

As international museums began acquiring her work, she was celebrated with a retrospective at the Royal Academy in 1994 and an exhibition to mark her 80th birthday was held at Tate Britain in 2005.

Sandra Blow: Paintings and Prints is running at the Bohun Gallery until Saturday, October 1.

The weekly opening times are 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday.

For more information, call (01491) 576228 or visit

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