HUGH CRONYN 1937 oil on canvas portrait of NORAH MCGUINNESS in front of THE BLACK LION pub on (South) Black Lion Lane in Hammersmith, West London.
HUGH CRONYN (1905-1996) 1937 oil on canvas portrait of Irish painter Norah McGuinness, signed and dated HUGH/CRONYN 37, signed again and titled (on an artist label attached to the reverse).
51 x 61 cm (20" x 24")
*NEW TO THE MARKET - FROM THE ESTATE OF HUGH CRONYN*
PROVENANCE: Artist's Estate
Depicts Irish painter Norah McGuinness (1901-1980), Cronyn’s friend and neighbour, just before her departure for New York. Painted from the entrance to Cronyn's studio at 9A Black Lion Lane, behind Norah is ‘Bell Steps’, 1a Hammersmith Terrace, where she lived, with its distinctive green door and the adjacent steps leading down to the Thames. To her right is The Black Lion, where she, Cronyn and other artists in Hammersmith and Chiswick congregated.
Like Cronyn, McGuinness had attended classes in the studio of André Lhote in Paris. Back in London in the 1930s she became associated with Lucy Wertheims’s Gallery in Mayfair, and the London Group.
Canadian-British painter Hugh Cronyn (1905-1976) led a fascinating life in America, Europe and England before the War, thanks both to the support and connection of his family and friends, and his innate charm and talent. Young and impressionable, fresh from Vancouver, and with an irrepressible can-do New World outlook, Cronyn's unpublished memoires recount his study and travels and the many remarkable people whose paths he crossed: his beginnings as an artist in Toronto under Franz Johnston (an early member of the Group of Seven); his time at the Arts Students League in New York; his gilded years in Paris, 1930-34, tutored by André Lhote, when he travelled widely across Europe (whether struggling over the Alps by bicycle, or rescued from puncture failure by his cousin's chauffeur driven Bentley), and his subsequent immersion into the rich bohemian life he encountered in West London. In Florence he was underwhelmed by his introduction to Roger Fry, but on his arrival in London was star struck by Ivon Hitchens, whose second solo exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery he helped hang.
Living first in St Peter’s Square and thereafter in different studios on the Hammersmith-Chiswick borders by the Thames, he became acquainted with a swathe of leading artists and writers of the day, from Dylan Thomas to Henry Moore. Most influential in his circle of friends was the humourist and politician A P Herbert ('APH' - 1890-1971) and his wife Gwendolyn. Pillars of the local community, they were regulars at the local Black Lion pub. At the lively gatherings and parties held at their home at 12 Hammersmith Terrace, Cronyn met such artists as Edward Wadsworth, Mark Gertler, Leon Underwood and John Piper. Ceri Richards lived nearby, as did poets Robert Graves and Laura Riding in St Peter’s Square. Cronyn became friends with Julian Trevelyan at Durham Wharf. On a trip to Dorset with Trevelyan he visited Eileen Agar at her farm, and was introduced to Kitty Church, wife of Anthony West, son of H.G. Wells. In his own studio he held sketching classes with Victor Pasmore, Claude Rogers and Elsie Few.
Cronyn was both a lifelong lover of the Thames and an ardent supporter of Churchill. A keen yachtsman, he had lived by the Thames in Hammersmith and Chiswick in the 1930s and 40s. Following the outbreak of War, Cronyn was commissioned into the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. His distinguished war record began with the award of a George Medal (GM) when he defused a 500lb bomb that had lodged unexploded in the hold of an oil tanker. He subsequently served on board ship in the North Sea and the Pacific, ending his naval service with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. In 1942 he married Jean Harris and from 1949-1969 was tutor of painting at Colchester School of Art alongside John Nash who became a great friend. In 1975 the Cronyns moved back to Chiswick Mall to live at 3 St Peter’s Wharf overlooking the Thames, the artists’ studios recently constructed by his old friend Julian Trevelyan.
Cronyn exhibited widely during his lifetime, especially in London and Suffolk, including as a regular contributor to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and in Toronto, Canada. His paintings are in private and public collections in France, Sweden the USA, Canada and the UK.
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- Hugh Cronyn
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