John Craxton


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British painter, graphic artist, and theatre designer, born in London. In 1939 he studied briefly in Paris and then for the next three years in London, at Westminster School of Art, the Central School of Art, and Goldsmiths College. He was a friend of Graham Sutherland and in his early work was one of the leading exponents of Neo-Romanticism, depicting visionary landscapes peopled with solitary poets and shepherds. Craxton said that these pictures (often heavily worked drawings) ‘were my means of escape and a sort of self-protection…I wanted to safeguard a world of private mystery, and was drawn to the idea of bucolic calm as a kind of refuge.’ In 1946 he visited Greece and since then spent much of his time in the Aegean (he also travelled extensively in other parts of the world). He is perhaps best known for his portraits. Typically they are marked by clear drawing (with mild Cubist stylization), subtle low-key colouring, and nervous sensitivity of characterization; there is a kinship of feeling with the early work of Lucian Freud (Craxton shared a studio with him in 1942–4). As a theatre designer Craxton was best known for his costumes and sets for the 1951 Sadler's Wells Ballet production of Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe, choreographed by Frederick Ashton.

Subjects: Art.

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