An Art Accustomed Eye

The following has been announced by the auctioneers Rogers Jones Co


Viewing Friday 20th February 10-8pm and on the morning of sale 9-10.30am

300 + works of art from Wales’ foremost artists

Lot 233

CLIVE HICKS-JENKINS acrylic on panel – still life with toy theatre entitled `Painting for a Child`s Bedroom`, attic gallery label verso, dated 2005, 13.5 x 27.5 ins (34.5 x 70 cms)

The painting was made in 2005 and offered at The Attic Gallery in Swansea, where for many years I showed before the arrangement was in place for my sole representation at the Martin Tinney Gallery. I know that it was purchased as a gift for a child. Twice in the past ten years the owners have loaned it for public exhibition: to MoMA Wales in 2010 for an exhibition titled Art for Children curated by my partner Peter Wakelin, and the year after to the National Library of Wales for my sixtieth birthday retrospective.

The origins of painting lie in the private collections of the Gibbs family, who have customarily purchased artworks for various generations of Gibbs children in the belief that you cannot too early begin the process of educating the eye and the heart in matters of art. Peter and I came to know members of the Gibbs family in 2001, when William Gibbs purchased a painting from my first public gallery exhibition, The Mare’s Tale at Newport Museum and Art Gallery. William invited me to visit his home to see his art collection and meet his mother, his brothers and their families, and over the succeeding years Peter and I grew to know the family and they us. We became friends. In 2004 the Gibbs family collection of art was exhibited in An Art Accustomed Eye at the National Museum of Wales, for which Peter wrote the book/catalogue of the same title.

Within the Gibbs collection, is a small painting by Richard Eurich of a train speeding along a track, and it was this, together with the lovely notion of acquiring art for children so early in their lives, that led me to make Painting for a Child’s Bedroom.  I included in it some of the things I remember loving as a child: a distant horizon, a panoramic view and the sense of a journey, a toy theatre, a glass full of water, a castle and a boat. The plants are two I loved as a child and love now: bronze fennel in the glass and Jerusalem sage in front of Oxwich Castle.

I’m saddened that the painting is coming up for auction a mere ten years after it was purchased with the intention of being the companion of a child through to adulthood. I’m saddened to think that the child did not love it enough, or that circumstances changed in the lives of its owners to a point where they chose to let the painting go. I don’t know the story, and so I can only speculate. But here it is, Lot 233 in the forthcoming auction, and I hope that wherever it goes, it may be loved and enjoyed.

Peter’s book about the Gibbs Collection is still available:

Author: Wakelin, Peter
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0 7200 0555 8
Binding: Paperback
No. pages: 99

‘Collecting and promoting art was at the heart of John Gibbs’ life although his friends and colleagues knew little of the extent of his activities, and the wider art world knew even less. He and his wife Sheila challenged our concept of collecting, acquiring works for public and educational institutions as well as for their own family, including the youngest children. This book reveals for the first time how they created one of the first confident collections of contemporary Welsh art, and demonstrated the value of modern art in Christian faith. The collections they created include works by Ceri Richards, Lucian Freud and Paul Nash, all acquired to help us appreciate the power of art.’

24 thoughts on “An Art Accustomed Eye

  1. For me, it’s rather like seeing a book I have inscribed on! (And yes, I have seen such a thing!) I am glad you have so many comforters and jolly friends to console you.

    I wonder if it is the same Gibbs family that branched out in Charleston, South Carolina–an art museum on Meeting St. is “The Gibbes Art Museum.”

  2. It’s such a beautiful painting, my eyes wander over the surface of the panel and find things to delight in and things to marvel at in every square inch. The energy, creativity and sheer hard work you put into it is very evident Clive, I can understand it’s hard seeing the painting appear in the auctioneer’s catalogue like a child up for adoption. But it will find a new family, build new relationships and be loved more than ever I’m sure.

    If I wasn’t unemployed right now I’d be bidding myself, but best of luck to John!

  3. This happened to me once. One of my beloved paintings outgrew me. I had read about this occurring but I never thought it would happen to me.

    It started innocuously enough but I did not know how to read the warning signs. I would find my little painting slightly askew in the morning hours. It would unlevel itself in the night as if it were shifting its weight toward the majolica vase on the side board. I’d tidy it, tighten its wire and bring the horizon line back to the equator. It was no use though. I somehow sensed what was eventually coming.

    All at once on a Sunday drive back from the grocer the earth began trembling frightfully as I approached my house. Barely maintaining control of the car I progressed down the drive and along the line of cherry trees, whose arms were nervously littering their blossoms to the wind, until I came upon my house nearly ripping from the firmament. I slowed the car out of concern for this queer sight as before me my house sputtered and hexed.

    Suddenly the front door, clapping against its frame, broke open. With a piercing whistle the little plein aire careened over the porch stair like a rocket, shot across the lily bed and proceeded to skid down the gravel path in a plume of dust. It tilted past me and my gaping jaw and whizzed along the drive to where the gravel meets the thoroughfare. There it increased its speed and, once past the willow trees, its melancholy cry was finally out of range and it dissolved from my squinting eyes over the hillside. I removed my hat and lingered there, my eyes searching where its frame finally escaped my gaze, until the dizzying scene gradually inhaled and quieted itself again.

    They warned me: paintings outgrow their owners. The benefactors that coddle paintings from their first stretchers foolishly marry themselves to one of many narratives in an artwork’s life. After all I was only its first owner and it had many lives yet to live.

    I relinquished it. (At least, I like to tell myself I did.) The truth is that no anchor in the lathe and plaster above my sideboard could have held it forever. Paintings must reinvent themselves. They are living beings and, dissimilar to men, refuse to adopt the glassy stare of a soul defeated. Instead they break forth. They pursue new horizons and abandon their buyers with nothing more than a faded square above the sideboard and a hornswoggled and inconsolable countenance.

    Now you have been warned. It can happen to you, too.

    • When I wrote ‘I don’t know the story, and so I can only speculate’, little did I imagine anyone would offer me the answer! And moreover, so quickly, and such an entertaining one. (I can see the animation in my head, made a la Jan Svankmejer with real objects in a whacky environment!)

      Sean, while there are Artloggers who leave occasional entertaining flights of fancy in the comments boxes… right now a flurry of delightful silliness is afoot regarding the matter of ‘gingerbread zombies’ and their appearance in my forthcoming picture-book version of Hansel & Gretel… I haven’t ever before found anything here quite so marvellously conceived and executed as the above. You are a star, sir, and I doff my cap to you. You have made me smile when I was feeling distinctly under par, and I thank you whole-heartedly for that. I can only urge you find a publisher today, and soar to further flights of fancy with a Roald Dahl-esque collection of short stories on the follies of artists and art collectors, for which I implore that I may be engaged to make the cover art and page vignettes. I look forward to hearing when this has been arranged. Call me.

  4. Darling, I’m sure it has, is being “loved and enjoyed” though possibly not in the way you envisaged.
    Tentative ‘right sided hugs.’

  5. I’m so sorry to read that one of your paintings is up for auction – it’s a work of wonder and will make it’s new owner very happy for many years. Because to me your painting is going to have a new fan, a lover of fine art who will fall in love with your painting over and over again every time their eyes rest upon it.

  6. I often empathise with artists at their opening shows, as they open themselves and their work up to the public gaze. Therefore, it is completely understandable that you feel emotional when one of your paintings, which had obviously found a good home, is now venturing forth into the world once again.

    I join the other Artloggers in wishing the painting safe passage and I consider the next person, who is soon to own and treasure it, very fortunate indeed.

    • As ever from the ‘Curious One’, an insightful comment brimming with kindness. Thank you, Sarah. I’m surprised by my sense of desolation at this news, though I know that the reality will allow another person the chance to acquire the painting. I so loved the idea of it on the child’s wall, because I know that I, as a young boy, would have lost myself over and over in such a picture.

  7. Two things, before I have to leave in a hurry:

    – I have found 4 copies of the book. Second hand. I take it they are the only available copies, just as happened with the museum catalogue of your Mare’s Tale exhibition, (They are museum editions too ). When I return , I’ll order one of them immediately , as, after this entry of yours, they are not likely to last the day at their sellers. And I found there are more books by Peter to buy… Great.

    – About the auction. The fact your painting goes on auction, does not have to mean it is not loved.

    A few years ago, the patriarch of a rich family from the North of Spain, who owned a great collection of art died. The heirs had no problem dividing the paintings among them. Except for two small paintings, one of a little dog, and the other of a baby sheep. All of them wanted those paintings, for sentimental reasons. And they would not try to buy it from the others, as this would easily have meant bad blood for the future.

    So, they sent both paintings to a public auction. And they bid against each other and anyone else who entered the bid. When the last price was reached, they withdrew the paintings, and whomever of them had stayed to the end, payed the auction price to the other heirs. They were happy then, that the fight had been fair. And in spite of having had to pay the steep fee for the Auction House, it was worth the while for them. So, you see, it did not mean those paintings were not loved, but on the contrary, that they were really loved by the whole family.

    May the gods be with you.

    • Maria, thank you for this. It is a salutary example of all not necessarily being as it at first appears! I shall take heart. I was saddened to think that any child given the painting might not grow to love it as I’d hoped, so it is good to remember that’s but one scenario.

      It’s not possible to make a painting, no matter whether simple or complex, narrative or otherwise, without love being poured into the process. I came so late to painting, and I had to work so hard and learn so fast, that everything is heartfelt. I don’t know of any other way to do it.

    • I am taken aback. I was so pleased that I knew the purchasers, and that the painting was destined for their grandchild. I had this scenario in my head that the child would grow up with the painting, would gaze at it and always be discovering new things in it and new pathways around it.

      Well, whatever lies behind the decision to let it go, I’m left feeling curiously flattened and sad. Because I started painting so late, Peter has always said that we won’t see much of my work turn up at auction because I’ll most likely be popping my clogs before the owners. And indeed not much has turned up so far, so he was right. But then this, that I thought was so well placed and appreciated. In fact there are two of mine in the auction, the other being a small painting of the chapel at Cwm Camlais, purchased from my Prospects of Wales exhibition at the Martin Tinney Gallery in 2004.

      You are a sweetie. And I know you love your painting. And I love you.

      Hugs to you and G. Stay warm. It’s perishing here!

      • It’s their loss, they must be bonkers. But then, anything could be the reason, it may be a sad one, you never know. It does mean, however, that whoever buys it next will truly want it, so the painting will be cherished in the end.

        I love you too, Clive. Withdrawal symptoms are coming on, so I hope we shall see you guys soon. Yes it’s absolutely freezing here too, -8 this morning! I’ve dragged all my paints up to the house using the excuse that I am painting a series of interiors. G is very suspicious of my motives!


  8. Dear Clive,
    I noticed this with some excitement when my email preview arrived from Rogers Jones yesterday. I am always fascinated by the story behind the life of a picture. Some disappear into obscurity, others keep popping into the limelight for very many differing reasons. Your own notes and memories behind Painting for a Child’s Bedroom add so much to the value of the work. Your written words are both emotional and captivating. I shall rush to my small money box and bid nervously on the 21st.
    Best Wishes,

    • John, my fingers are crossed for you. The estimate is £1,700 – £2000.

      My greatest wish is for the painting to go somewhere where it will be loved and enjoyed, though what I wish is neither here nor there because its fate is beyond my control. I loved painting it, and had I been able to, I would have kept it.

      I recall that I made the drawings of the castle that were later used for the painting, when Peter and I took my father for a day-trip to Gower, and that it was the last occasion we had a day out together before he was taken ill and died in 1999.

      May I ask are you planning on going, or making other arrangements?

      • I may go but if not will certainly bid on-line. Elinor is in Portugal that w/e so I would go solo. I love the ‘Welsh Sales’ in Cardiff. There is so much talent on offer and auctions always throw up a few surprises!

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