The figurative work of Paul Aysford Methuen reflects an early twentieth century reactionary approach to the depiction of the female nude through a combination of the modernist ethos with a very human sensibility. Born in Corsham and educated at Cambridge, much of Methuen’s early working life was spent pursuing a career in South Africa as a Zoologist, until 1914 when commitments to his family seat, Corsham Court, brought him back to England. Following the war Methuen turned back to his art, having been taught to draw at school and college by numerous masters including Charles Holmes at the Slade. In 1927 Methuen sought the tutorage of the Camden Town Group painter Walter Sickert (1860-1942) whose influence seeps out of the present work in both subjective and stylistic terms. In 1910 Sickert began to condemn the use of the nude subject by academics such as Frederic Lord Leighton (1830-1896), whose overly idealised depictions he felt separated them from reality. Sickert instead...

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The figurative work of Paul Aysford Methuen reflects an early twentieth century reactionary approach to the depiction of the female nude through a combination of the modernist ethos with a very human sensibility.

Born in Corsham and educated at Cambridge, much of Methuen’s early working life was spent pursuing a career in South Africa as a Zoologist, until 1914 when commitments to his family seat, Corsham Court, brought him back to England. Following the war Methuen turned back to his art, having been taught to draw at school and college by numerous masters including Charles Holmes at the Slade. In 1927 Methuen sought the tutorage of the Camden Town Group painter Walter Sickert (1860-1942) whose influence seeps out of the present work in both subjective and stylistic terms.

In 1910 Sickert began to condemn the use of the nude subject by academics such as Frederic Lord Leighton (1830-1896), whose overly idealised depictions he felt separated them from reality. Sickert instead depicted the female nude in everyday situations, perhaps his most famous series of works being the Camden Town Nudes painted in the early 1900s which contain a sombre reference to prostitution and murder.

Methuen’s quick broad brushstrokes are also a clear nod to the Camden Town painter’s approach, which is widely regarded as having helped forge the link between Impressionism and Modernism in British art. Methuen however demonstrates a clear departure through his use of colour which is generally speaking more light in tone, seen especially in the green pillow which we find quite complimentary towards the white bed sheet.

The composition as well is quite individual in the sense that it breaks away from the theme of a nude in an interior or particular situation and instead presents the form as its singular focal point with the composition closed from behind with a wall of sporadic modernist brushstrokes.

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500 Years of British Art