British painter, theatrical designer, and writer on art, born in London. He studied art history at the Courtauld Institute and was assistant keeper at the Tate Gallery, London, from 1937 to 1946 (for most of this period he was also assistant secretary of the Contemporary Art Society). In 1946 he resigned from the Tate to devote himself to painting (in which he was self-taught) and writing about art, supporting himself partly through designing for the stage. His most characteristic paintings were imaginative—often esoteric—figure subjects, usually in gouache. The Somnambulist (c.1943, Tate), a highly linear depiction of fantastic overgrown architecture, suggests a sensibility well tuned to the Neo-Romanticism current in wartime Britain. Among the theatrical works for which he designed were Der Rosenkavalier (Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1948) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Edinburgh Festival, 1954). His best-known book is Pre-Raphaelite Painters (1948), a pioneering modern work on this group. The art historian Denys Sutton described him as ‘a strange man, something of an eccentric, secretive and gifted with an elegance, style and perception—an aristocrat’ (Apollo, June 2004).
From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.