In this painting, Julian Trevelyan presents a view of a small seaside village from an elevated viewpoint, as if we are looking down on it from a spot above amid a mass of colourful summer blooms and a butterfly hovering nearby. At the centre of the composition, a woman in a light blue dress strolls along a path leading past a shop. Beyond her, standing on a jetty, is another woman in white looking out to sea, accompanied by what may be a small black dog.
Trevelyan’s seascape bursts with the optimism of a carefree English summer. It is set on Tresco, the second largest island of the Isles of Scilly off the Cornish coast. In 1939, as the Second World War began, fellow British artist, S.W. Hayter invited Trevelyan to join the Industrial Camouflage Unit in London, for which he taught and used inventive painting techniques to camouflage military and civilian sites. At this time, while briefly posted to complete camouflage work in Devon, he also visited friends and artists stationed in Cornwall. From 1940 he served for three years with the Royal Engineers in north Africa and Palestine. Trevelyan is known to have returned to Cornwall, including a visit to Tresco in 1945. The presence of the Union Jack fluttering in the breeze in this work suggests that he may have painted it on that visit, possibly not long after VE Day, a period of jubilation for the long-awaited peace.
Julian Trevelyan, a painter and printmaker, was born in Dorking in Surrey. He read English Literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1928 to 1930, and it was here that he was introduced to French painting and Surrealism. He left Cambridge to move to Paris in 1931, where he attended the important printmaking studio Atelier 17, run by English artist Stanley William Hayter. Atelier 17 attracted both up-and-coming artists and established ones, and Trevelyan worked alongside the likes of Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. The influence of these two artists’ works can be seen in Trevelyan’s Surrealist prints of the early 1930s.
Trevelyan returned to England in 1934, and two years later, a number of his works were selected for the International Surrealist Exhibition of 1936. He joined the English Surrealist Group the following year, but resigned in 1938. At this time he was also involved in the photography project ‘Mass Observation’, an anthropological approach to studying working class life.
During the Second World War, Trevelyan was employed in camouflage work and was sent to Africa and the Middle East. In 1950 he was made a member of the London Group and painted a series of murals for the Festival of Britain. He taught at Chelsea School of Art from 1950 to 1955, in which year he became a tutor of engraving at the Royal College of Art. He was later made head of the etching department, and held this post until 1963. Trevelyan’s book Etching, Modern Methods of Intaglio Printmaking (published in 1963), was a key work on modern printmaking, and in 1965 he became a founder member of the Printmakers’ Council.
Trevelyan travelled widely with his second wife, the artist Mary Fedden, often producing sketches on his travels, which he would then work up into paintings or prints on his return. He was awarded a Senior Fellowship of the Royal College of Art in 1986 and the following year was appointed a Royal Academician. He died in Hammersmith, London, in 1988.
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