The London Group out-of-town

London Group archivist David Redfern LG writes about some of the Group’s furthermost outings.

The London Group recently mounted an exhibition in Scarborough, our contribution to “levelling up” maybe? Indeed the Group does have a history of showing outside its title-inferred habitat as the following article makes clear. 

The London Group at Scarborough, 2023

The first appearance of the new grouping of The Camden Town Group, the Fitzroy Group, the English Cubists (later the Vorticists) and other invited independent artists, which was eventually to become The London Group, took place fifty miles south of London. The exhibition “The Camden Town Group and Others” opened at Brighton Art Gallery on 16th December 1913. Spencer Gore was the organising force behind this exhibition seen as a ‘dry run’ for the embryonic London Group. Wyndham Lewis insisted that his associates should be hung separately from the rest of the group, a worrying omen for the future. By 1917 Lewis had led his flock from The London Group to form Group X, the Vorticists. 

The first-ever exhibition outside of London was, “An Exhibition of Paintings by the London Group”, which toured in Scotland in 1945 and was organised by CEMA (Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts) in an attempt to breathe life back into British arts after the Second World War. Edward Wolfe, elected to membership in 1923, assembled the exhibition that contained forty-nine paintings, one work from each artist and all from current members. Ten years later in 1955, the Group made its second national venture organising a tour of selected works from the Group’s 1954 members’ exhibition, “A Selection from the London Group Exhibition 1954”, shown at Cumberland House, Southsea, 1st January to 6th February 1955 and later “A Selection from the London Group Exhibition 1954” opened at Southampton Art Gallery, 12th February to 13th March 1955. It was 1982 before the Group ventured outside of London again, this time to the Penwith Galleries, St. Ives, Cornwall from November to December 1982 and continuing on to the Gardner Centre in Brighton from 10th January to 12th February 1983. A small group exhibition took place in the Trinity Theatre and Arts Centre in Tunbridge Wells in August 2002. Although not organised by The London Group, “Artists of the London Group” was shown in the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle-on-Tyne, from 18th January to 1st March 2003. The evidence for this is a poster advertising the exhibition but with no collaborative input from the Group. Sometime resident and London Group president at the time, Philip Crozier, organised the exhibition, “To the Limit” in the SoCo Gallery, Hastings in October 2005. Bath was the next venue for a whole group outing to Mauger Modern Art from 19th April to 24th May 2008.

Still in the South, “The London Group at 100: Mottisfont”, was organised by member Bryan Benge in the Group’s centenary year at the National Trust’s Mottisfont near Romsey in Hampshire from 9th February to 24th April 2013. Southampton was again the venue for a second London Group exhibition in the city. “From David Bomberg to Paula Rego: The London Group in Southampton”, involving Tim Craven, Victoria Rance and David Redfern, was an historical and current member exhibition which opened on the 27th June and continued until November 1st, 2014.

The London Group at 100: Mottisfont, 2013
From David Bomberg to Paula Rego: The London Group in Southampton, 2014

Three years later president Susan Haire worked tirelessly on a new initiative for the Group, “Shoreham Sculpture Trail”, an open-air sculpture extravaganza with London Group and invited artists installing three-dimensional work around the village of Shoreham in Kent in support of the local church’s restoration and building work on the weekend of 17th and 18th June 2017. From the Kent Weald to the Kent coast. Deal was the venue for an all-member London Group exhibition at Linden Hall Studio, a contemporary art gallery at 32 St. George’s Road. The Exhibition, entitled “Down from London”, ran from the 4th to the 25th February 2018.

Shoreham Sculpture Trail, 2017. Sculpture by Martin Heron LG
Down from London, 2018

The sea was a common link for the next out-of-London initiative, proposed and facilitated by member Suzan Swale. “The London Group at St Ives” revisited the Penwith Gallery, Back Road West, St Ives, Cornwall from the 8th to the 29th September 2018. Running concurrently was an historical show of past and present London Group members at Belgrave St Ives Gallery, a modern and contemporary art gallery at 22 Fore Street and sharing the same dates as the Penwith Gallery exhibition. In the summer of 2021, taking advantage of a window in Coronavirus lockdowns, a large number of members gathered on the lawn outside the Thelma Hulbert Gallery in Elmfield House, Dowell Street, Honiton, Devon on Saturday 28th August to celebrate the private view of “In Plain Sight: The London Group & Thelma Hulbert and her London Group friends”. Judith Jones and Tim Craven made this memorable project happen, Tim’s presentation on the history of The London Group covering over a hundred years was delivered in one hour flat, very impressive! 

The London Group at St Ives, 2018
Tim Craven at In Plain Sight: The London Group & Thelma Hulbert and her London Group friends, 2021

In my research into the history of The London Group I discovered, “London Group, Exhibition of Paintings”, David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney, Australia, 19th March to 2nd April 1946. I’m really not sure whether this happened or not, does anybody know for certain? In 2006, London Group President Peter Clossick had sought to open relations with European art groups, beginning with Arti de Salon in Amsterdam. A number of London Group members were able to show work in a reciprocal exhibition venture, “Arti de Salon”, Rokin 112, Amsterdam, 16th November to 10th December 2006, Arti members being shown in a subsequent London Group exhibition at The Cello Factory. The last six years have seen a revival of international projects. Tisna Westerhof proposed and organised “Personal Relations”, first shown in The Cello Factory in December 2016 and then touring to The Netherlands’s Pulchri Studio in The Hague from the 25th February to 29th March 2017, followed by a visit to Vicenza in Italy, at the Mirror Gallery from the 29th April to 4th June 2017.

Mark Dickens LG, Neil Weerdmeester LG, David Redfern LG, Jan (ARTI), Peter Clossick PPLG and Ian Parker LG
Personal Relations, 2017

London Group member Clive Burton organised the exhibition “Drawing Distinctions”, a collaborative exhibition of drawings between the Faculty of the School of Art and Design and invited alumni of the University of Wisconsin Stout Menomonie USA and The London Group. The exhibition was first shown in the Furlong Gallery, University of Wisconsin-Stout, Micheels Hall, 415 13th Ave. E., Menomonie, Wisconsin, from September 17th to October 29th, 2018 and then crossed the Atlantic for a showing in The Cello Factory in April 2019. In 2021 London Group members Carol Wyss and Sumi Perera were able to open “Wish You/We Were Here/There”, a collection of postcard art which had been delayed due to the pandemic and was originally shown online in late summer 2020. The physical exhibition took place in Küefer Martis Huus, Giessenstrasse 14, Ruggell, Liechtenstein from the 9th to the 24th of October, 2021.  

Clive Burton LG at Drawing Distinctions, 2018
Wish You/We Were Here/There, 2021

 In August this year The London Group will be showing again at Linden Hall Studio in Deal and in 2024 the Group are looking to exhibit on the Isle of Wight keeping up the momentum of bringing contemporary visual art to as many people as possible. 

David Redfern LG 2023