NORMAN BASIL TOWN (1915-1987)
MODERN BRITISH (20th Century )
Junction Main Lane (England, 1944)
Watercolour, pen and ink on paper
The Artist's Studio
Description / Expertise
In the darkest hour of the war, when British morale was at its lowest, a young recruit to the Pioneer Corps, Norman Basil Town, was keeping a poetic record of the war in paintings and journals.
The director of the Wakefield City Art Gallery, having realised that Norman Town was an artist of unusual sensibility, had sent three of Town’s bomb crater paintings to the War Advisory Committee who immediately sent him all over the country in a variety of dangerous jobs. Norman Town’s grim experiences as a conscientious objector in the war included working in the Yorkshire Bomb Disposal Unit, in which he was sent down the mines in 1943. His dismay at the conditions provoked a series of realistic and compelling drawings of miners at work in the shafts, reminiscent of Henry Moore’s shelter drawings.
This intense work was painted during the trauma of readjustment which faced the whole country at the end of the war. Norman Town was at this time studying at the Royal College of Art, which allowed him the opportunity to concentrate on painting and express his difficulties in returning to the realm of normal human activity after the monotony and squalor of his war work. His paintings of this date reveal a recurring theme of lone figures standing isolated against their backgrounds, such as Returning Home.
One of the most important influences on Norman Town’s work during the 1940’s was undoubtedly his friendship with Keith Vaughan. Through their love of music and nature and sketching in the open air, the two became great friends and when many of the Neo-Romantic artists had left Britain during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s - John Piper and Michael Ayrton voyaging to Italy, Graham Sutherland and Francis Bacon to the South of France, Norman Town embarked on a vigorous rediscovery of the English countryside.
Travelling exhaustively to Yorkshire, Ireland, Cornwall and Wales, often on bicycle, he filled numerous sketchbooks with watercolour and pastel landscapes. This obvious enjoyment of the countryside continues throughout the 1950’s and towards the end of the decade, his landscapes become more abstracted and visionary.