Sixty works from the private collection of Nicolas and Frances McDowall feature in an exhibition opening at the DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery on Thursday, 15 October.
The exhibition concentrates on those artists who continued the spirit of neo-romanticism beyond the 1940s and into the 1990s.
Nicolas McDowall’s interest in the painters of the movement started when, at the age of 15, he visited London’s Redfern Gallery and saw the work of Alan Reynolds for the first time. Reynolds was one of the genre’s most significant painters, specialising in neo-romantic landscapes.
After viewing the 1987 A Paradise Lost exhibition at the Barbican, the McDowalls began searching for works by the artists represented as well as younger, less well-known names. Although their budget was limited, they gathered dozens of pieces by artists whose work is now much sought after.
Many of the works they purchased are featured in the exhibition at the DLI, which include 23 prints and monotypes.
The McDowalls have a particular interest in monotypes, which are produced by drawing or painting directly onto a smooth, non-absorbent surface. The image is then transferred on to a sheet of paper by pressing the two together.
Monotyping offers greater freedom than printing and, because most of the ink is removed during the initial pressing, each work is unique.
The exhibition starts with engravings by William Blake and Samuel Palmer, the 19th Century father figures of the romantic movement, but moves on to feature works by Graham Sutherland, Paul Drury, John Craxton and Joseph Webb.
Also included are two monotypes personally dedicated to Nicolas and Frances by Robin Tanner, one of the outstanding artists of the genre, who became personal friends with the McDowalls.
Wood engraving is represented with works by Paul Nash and Gertrude Hermes, and there are post-war works by John Piper, Michael Rothenstein, Bert Isaac, Robert Colquhoun, Robert McBryde, Ceri Richards and Bryan Ingham.
The exhibition also features 37 original paintings and drawings by artists including Michael Ayrton, Edward Bawden, John Minton, Julian Trevelyan and Keith Vaughan.
Lucy Jenkins, the DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery’s exhibitions curator, said: “The McDowalls’ collection is a stunning display of artworks which embody the poetic and passionate spirit of neo-romantic art.
“The wide-range of works explores themes concerned with nature and humanity and the many landscapes – be they rural, marine or even mining – are sure to appeal to the people of County Durham.
“This is a great opportunity to see some fabulous works by a variety of artists all in the same place.”
The exhibition also features works by Leslie Hurry, Cecil Collins, Bernard Meninsky, William Scott and Bryan Wynter.
The exhibition has been curated by the McDowalls themselves, alongside Rupert Otten of Monnow Valley Arts.