On 20 January Hastings Museum and Art Gallery opened an exhibition devoted to George Graham’s mysterious Creation Paintings (which are are the property of the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery)
The Creation Paintings
George Graham was born in Leeds in 1881, but lived for more than twenty years at Winchelsea Beach, where he died in 1949. He was best known as a landscape painter, but is seen here as a visionary artist working in the tradition of William Blake. His mystical view of the universe was affected by the conflict between good and evil, and his paintings reflect the turmoil of the 1930s and 40s, when they were each created over a period of years. Despite being affected by profound deafness, which tended to isolate him from contact with everyday life, Graham had a passion for music (particularly Beethoven) and this influenced the intensity of his work and The Creation Paintings were first shown at Hastings Museum in 1947. At that time, Graham provided short notes to accompany some of the titles, which he intended as hints on the subject matter rather than explanations. These notes have again been included in this current exhibition and some are reproduced here. The paintings were willed to Graham’s student Hugh Griffiths who donated them to Hastings Museum in the 1990’s and the last time they were exhibited together was at the Museum in 1997. This series of paintings was a very private project to Graham - He wrote to Hugh Griffiths in 1944 “As for my paintings, those done during the last ten years and unknown to people, I must never allow ambition to step in and expect a worldly success. It cannot come in my lifetime”. Later, he wrote “yes the skies are wonderful. I was only gradually led to my worship of the skies by sheer force of their beauty. If only I could have got on to it years earlier!”
The picture ‘Winchelsea Beach’ is representative of Graham’s better-known works.
And The Spirit Of God Moved Upon the Face of the Waters 1939-45
Darkest night and the spirit rises from the sea, the waves leap upwards in joyous movement of welcome
The Creation of The Deep Seas, Salt Dykes 1936-38
The rains have ceased and water is finding its level, filling up the deep gaps between mountains. The sun sends down great shafts of light and clouds are rising from the valleys. The air is filled with bubbles which sparkle in the light. Rainbows come and go. The effect is that of sunshine after prolonged rains in spring, and the earth rejoices in the clean and invigorating air.
Veni Sacre Spiritus 1936–39
The spiritual in art is having one of its regular revivals, possibly as a reaction to uncertain times and the lack of direction of an art market pandering to the super rich with attention grabbing novelty and zombie formalisms.
The Empowering Of The Clouds 1935-38
“The picture is symbolical of the great work done by the clouds in relation to the earth. To the right and left rise cumulus cloud and in the centre is a group of mounting cloud in process of destruction, breaking up and causing “weather”. Flashes of lightning are seen and thunder is in the ranks of cloud mounting higher. Above, clouds have already broken up and rain is falling. There is the heat of summer storms and a fire ball falls. In the background high mountains are seen, and two complete rainbows in full circle, one within the other, but lost to view in places by intervening clouds. The earth below, not seen in the picture, receives the life-giving rains.”
Veni Sacre Spiritus 1936-39
“Below, the sun rises from dense clouds which fall away and unfold us the sun rises. Above, the earth is seen and, behind, the Creator, On all sides are seen spheres, planets and stars which emerge from the darkness. Come sacred spirit, invest earth and mankind with spiritual need, is the subject of this picture”
"The upper sky at evening. The seven stars of the Plough. Crescent moon behind wing-like clouds and above the evening star, There is still the rumbling of thunder and the distant clouds and the entire western sky reflects the golden light of the setting sun, not seen in the picture. An evening lyric,"