Folly Garden, 1988
Robert Buhler RA (1916 - 1989)
RA Collection: Art
This photo-lithograph depicts the secluded garden of the Chelsea Arts Club at 143 Old Church Street, London SW3, of which the artist Robert Buhler was a member. In the centre of the composition is a white statue, which may be a copy of the Venus de Milo (Louvre, Paris), and a Cupid statue on a fountain in the foreground pointing his bow and arrow upwards with water spraying above it. To the left a yellow tree trunk cuts the composition into two unequal sections, while slightly to its right is an old-fashioned lamppost. Behind the rich green foliage of this private garden are the purple rooftops of houses, including a chimney in the centre. Buhler named the work Folly Garden, lending it associations with eighteenth-century classical follies. Buhler may also have been drawing attention to the classical inspiration of the garden statuary.
A very similar composition can be found in Buhler's 1983 oil painting Garden, Chelsea Arts Club (reproduced in Colin Hayes, Robert Buhler, The Royal Academy Painters and Sculptors, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986, pl. 6 and Robert Buhler R.A.: Paintings 1937-1984, Ascot, Berks.: Austin/Desmond Fine Art, 1984, no. 48). The viewpoint of this painting is from slightly to the left of the photo-lithograph, but the same statues, tree and lamppost make up the composition.
The work is probably not an original print but rather a good quality mechanical reproduction of either an original drawing or a print. A clue that it is probably not an original print is that Buhler appears to have rewritten the title, signature and date in pen and ink over the top of a print of the same words, suggesting it comes from a photograph of an already signed work.
Buhler taught in the painting school of the Royal College of Art from 1948 until 1975 alongside Carel Weight RA, who taught there from 1947 until 1973. Both artists were members of the Chelsea Arts Club. This photo-lithograph was made one year before Buhler's death. The work was in the collection of Weight and was given to the Royal Academy as part of his bequest. Weight said of Buhler:
'Robert has frequently asserted with characteristic modesty that his work has added nothing to painting.
This is not true. Certainly he does not paint in stripes or blobs or ride bicycles over his pictures, but in his portraits he has evolved a certain four-square no nonsense attitude which does not exist in English painting and in his landscapes and still life there is a system of simplification in design, vibrant colour which is all his own and makes his work stand out whenever it appears in mixed exhibitions.'
(quoted in Robert Buhler R.A.: Paintings 1937-1984, Ascot, Berks.: Austin/Desmond Fine Art, 1984, back cover)
210 mm x 297 mm
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