The historic East London Group returns to the Nunnery Gallery, selected and curated by writer broadcaster Michael Rosen – whose parents were contemporaries of the Group’s artists – and radio producer film-maker Emma-Louise Williams. Discovered in family collections and public institutions across the country, many paintings are returning to Bow for the first time since their making in the 1920s and '30s.
Made up of ordinary working men and women, the Group attended art classes and exhibited paintings alongside their day jobs; led by John Cooper, the infamous Walter Sickert was among their guest teachers. Encouraged to paint what surrounded them, the paintings immortalise the history of east London’s streets and buildings, with member Albert Turpin’s later works documenting the drastic remodelling of the area following the Second World War.
With a focus on Turpin – who, as window-cleaner, fireman, leading member of the anti-fascist movement and Mayor of Bethnal Green, was the ultimate 'working artist' – the works will be shown alongside sketchbooks and political pamphlets that haven’t been seen for 70 years, providing a vivid and contextual narrative to the paintings.
Of the focus on Albert Turpin, curators Rosen and Williams said: "Admirers of the Group find themselves drawn more to one artist than another, and in our curation, we've pinpointed the world of Albert Turpin. Turpin was an unstoppable sketcher, filling countless notebooks with drawings of his family while bringing to the Group a Fauvist tendency to colour his East End in a robust and affectionate way.
"He was politically committed to the struggles of those around him and in putting this exhibition together we were delighted to meet Turpin's daughter and granddaughters who were able to provide documentary materials to give witness to Albert Turpin's commitment."
The Working Artist: The East London Group launches at the Nunnery Gallery on 29 September and runs until 17 December 2017. More info can be found at www.bowarts.org.
Main image: Salmon and Ball, date unknown | Courtesy the artist’s family © A.E.Turpin Estate, 2017