Clifford Ellis (1907-1985)

Birds on a Wire

Signed with initials and dated '49 lower left

Oil on canvas

69 x 96 cm (27 x 37½ in)

Provenance: The artist’s studio

Clifford Ellis held a key position in the evolution of 20th-century British art as the founder and first principal of the Bath Academy of Art at Corsham Court (1946-72) where he attracted many soon-to-be-famous British artists to teach. These included Kenneth Armitage, Terry Frost, William Scott, Henry Cliffe, Peter Lanyon and Howard Hodgkin. Much more than a teacher, he was also a practitioner designing posters and book jackets from the 1930s on. His painting is undeservedly less well known. This example, which was acquired from the artist’s own collection long after his death, has no connection to any known designs, but incorporates a wonderful tonal effect of muted blues and greys with a jazzy geometrical arrangement of birds’ wings and telephone wires that shows a canny awareness of developments in international modern art – notably the work of Picasso.

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