Sinister Paris Night
Oil on canvas
About the work
Like a lighthouse casting beams of light, a street lamp radiates shafts of light across an otherwise dark, cobbled Parisian street. A man and a woman walk away furtively from the scene, as if escaping its scrutinous gaze. Most probably painted during a visit to the city in 1919, the style of Christopher Nevinson's painting reveals the artistic influence of Cubist and Futurist art, examples of which he saw at first hand during his visit. The lamp in this painting is also a visual motif from Nevinson's childhood: he recalled the first time that he saw an electric light while staying at a Parisian hotel with his mother before the War. Fascinated by what light hides as much as what it reveals, his use of a single lamp here expresses the sense of unease and drabness which he felt pervaded the city shortly after the Armistice.
Nevinson was born in London and studied at St John's Wood School of Art and the Slade School of Art up to 1912. While studying at the Academie Julian, Paris, in the following year, he met radical, experimental artists notably Gino Severini and Amedeo Modigliani. In 1914 Nevinson co-founded the London Group, and issued a Futurist manifesto, 'Vital English Art', with the Italian artist, Filippo Marinetti. During the War, Nevinson served with the Royal Army Medical Corps and exhibited his work in London. His first solo show, primarily of war paintings, was held in September 1916 in London to great acclaim. Subsequent exhibitions secured his reputation as an innovative artist whose distinct compositional style captured the violence and fear of war. He was created Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur in 1938, and Associate of the Royal Academy in 1939. At the end of his life he turned to the more traditional subjects of landscapes and flowerpieces. Suffering depression as a result of the outbreak of the Second World War, his health broke down and he died in London in October 1946.
About the artist
Born in London, Christopher R. W. Nevinson studied at St John's Wood and Slade Schools of Art. In 1912 he studied in Paris for a year. In 1914 he co-founded the London Group and issued a Futurist manifesto, ‘Vital English Art’ with Filippo Marinetti. In the First World War Nevinson served abroad with the Royal Army Medical Corps. In 1915 he participated in exhibitions of war art and Vorticism in London. His solo show at the Leicester Galleries (1916) received great acclaim. Nevinson became an Official War Artist in 1917. In the late 1930s, he was created Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur and an Associate of the Royal Academy. Suffering deep depression after the Second World War, he died in London in 1946.
- Sinister Paris Night
- Oil on canvas
- height: 76.50 cm, width: 61.50 cm
- Purchased from Leicester Galleries, January 1965
- br: C R W Nevinson
- Possibly the painting Parisian Nights shown at Nevinson's one-man exhibition at the Leicester Galleries in 1919 (no. 11), and lent by M. Mannaberg Esq. to the Nevinson Exhibition, Manchester Art Gallery, July & August 1920 (no. 34); F. Williams; purchased from Leicester Galleries, January 1965
- GAC number