Edward Burra (1905-1976) Out for a Walk 34.3 x 26.6 cm. (13 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.)

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Lot 9
Edward Burra
(1905-1976)
Out for a Walk 34.3 x 26.6 cm. (13 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.)

£ 30,000 - 40,000US$ 38,000 - 50,000
Edward Burra (1905-1976)
Out for a Walk
signed 'E. BURRA' (lower right)
pencil, watercolour, pen, brush and black ink
34.3 x 26.6 cm. (13 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.)
Executed in 1922

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    with Anthony d'Offay, 1980, where purchased by the present owner's parents,
    Thence by descent

    Exhibited:
    London, Hayward Gallery, Edward Burra 1 August - 29 September 1985, no. 2

    Literature:
    Andrew Causey, Edward Burra: complete catalogue, Phaidon, Oxford, 1985, p.11, no.5 (ill.b&w.)


    “His characters’ moral infirmities Burra depicts with a relish so remorseless as to make the squeamish wince, but he has sympathy for the love of personal independence which even the weakest of them shares, and he is fascinated by the bizarre pattern of their lives as they move, through the warm and relaxing atmosphere of self-indulgence, towards an awaiting nemesis.” (see John Rothenstein, Edward Burra, Penguin, Middlesex, 1945, p. 14).

    Out for a Walk is one of Burra’s earliest known works and encapsulates the subject at the heart of the majority of Burra’s art – people. It was only in 1921 that Burra first attended Chelsea College of Art, progressing to the Royal College of Art in 1923. At Chelsea, Burra was taught illustration on a weekly basis and his interest in the human spirit and its manifestations was evident from an early stage. Burra’s relish in depicting humanity in all its fallibility is a common theme of his art, and one that can be seen in the present work. Burra mostly worked from memory which accounts for his rather exaggerated expression at times.

    With Out for a Walk Burra has created an image which has an immediate and graphic effect, much like the poster and magazine design prevalent in the early 1920s in publications such as Vogue. Andrew Causey has observed that Burra’s Art was one of exteriors, where he ‘preferred to describe the surface of things rather than to penetrate or analyse them.’ (Op. Cit., p.9) The example of graphic design would have provided the perfect means for such an approach. However, although Burra’s Art does not ostensibly penetrate the surface of his subject, it is by no means superficial. Burra uses irony and gentle satire to delve deeper into his subjects, and provide a social commentary, as is eloquently demonstrated by Out for a Walk. Here, Burra presents the viewer with a rag tag of gypsy characters marching across the sheet. With their protruding features and mismatch clothing, they do not merge subtly with the landscape but stand out in a rather comical fashion. Causey has observed that these gypsies also appear in the ink and wash drawing Market Stall, of the same date. ’The transfer of coarse-featured figures from an urban scene of pavement and street barrows [Market Stall] to a rural context with birds and butterflies and flowers [Out for a Walk] shows what is acceptable in an urban setting offends in an idealized country scene’ (Op. Cit., p.11). Making these social outsiders the focus of his painting is typical for Burra, whose Art is littered with social misfits and marginalized characters. Stylistically Burra is thought by Causey to be parodying the artist Claud Lovat Fraser (1890-1921). Indeed, Burra uses the example of graphic design to achieve a completely different effect to Fraser. Where Fraser depicts the more frivolous subjects of theatrical and costume design, Burra uses the same technique to explore the dark underbelly of society. Burra’s focus on outsiders and marginalized people seems to be very much a reaction to bourgeois society and the social cover-up of Edwardian Art. Out for a Walk demonstrates Burra’s modernism as an artist even at the very early stages of his career in his choice of subject and mode of depiction.
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