In telling the story of Clausen's life and career, McConkey unveils an artist of unusual integrity and singleness of purpose. At no time in his career of sixty years did Clausen settle into a formula and produce what he knew to be popular. The famous naturalist paintings of the early years, individual and distinctive despite their indebtedness to Millet and Bastien-Lepage, later become more colourful and the forms are diffused by light. It was an insatiable fascination with the play and influence of light on form and structure that kept Clausen at his easel and which he passed on in his celebrated lectures at The Royal Academy. Clausen emerges as an artist of real and substantial achievement.
A specialist in British, Irish and French Art at the turn of the twentieth century, Kenneth McConkey is the author of many books and articles. He trained as a painter at Hornsey School of Art in the late 1960s before turning to art history at the Courtauld Institute. After leaving the Courtauld he became interested in the French painter, Jules Bastien-Lepage and his British followers, the most important of whom was George Clausen. Back in 1980 McConkey staged a large exhibition of Clausen's work which toured from Bradford to Bristol and Newcastle upon Tyne art galleries, and to the Royal Academy in London. At the time he promised that one day he would write a book about this leading British Impressionist, little thinking that the production of George Clausen and the Picture of English Rural Life would become such a lengthy exploration involving extensive, painstaking research. McConkey's books include Edwardian Portraits (1987), British Impressionism (1989), A Free Spirit, Irish Art, 1860-1960 (1990), Sir John Lavery (1993), Memory and Desire (2002) and The New English, A History of the New English Art Club (2006). His extensively revised monograph on Lavery - John Lavery, A Painter and his World - was published by Atelier in 2010.
Contents: Chapter 1: 'a difficult time, because one had to live', 1852-1881 Chapter 2: 'Work-a-day human beings', 1881-1885 Chapter 3: A 'painter of corns and dirty nails', 1885-1890 Chapter 4: 'clearly and emphatically Clausen', 1891-1904 Chapter 5: The Beauty of Pigment, 1904-1914 Chapter 6: The 'quarrel' between 'the symbolic and descriptive', 1914-1920 Chapter 7: The 'helpless Intoxication' of Looking, 1920-1944