Stan at Work
Because of his informality and friendliness, it is easy to forget that Stan Rosenthal has long been an artist with an international reputation. At the age of nine whilst staying at Battle, near Hastings, as an evacuee, he was given his first drawing lesson, and decided he wanted to be an artist. He entered art college in Southend before he was fourteen, transferring to Leicester two years later. During his time as a student, he had contact with two artists who were to become his heroes, Graham Sutherland and John Piper. Their printmaker was soon to be Stanley Jones of the Curwen Studio, and the young Rosenthal was not to know that many years later he would be collaborating with the world-famous stone and plate lithographer.
Whilst Rosenthal was still at college, he was teaching others at Vaughan College in Leicester, and exhibited at the Ben Uri gallery with such famous painters as Marc Chagall, Ben Shahn and Sir Jacob Epstein. He made two trips on fishing boats to help fund his studies (the picture below was to result many years later), but an eye injury was to stop him painting for many years. During this time he was to teach at various colleges, facilitate workshops and act as visiting lecturer to a number of colleges before returning to painting, and then beginning the career for which he was to become so well-known…printmaking.
Within a few months of his return to painting he was offered two exhibitions (in London and in Cardiff), and a period as Artist in Residence in Plymouth which was repeated the next year.
A few months later he visited Pembrokeshire, and like his early contemporaries (and heroes), John Piper and Graham Sutherland, fell in love with the ever changing quality of light, and the nature of the landscape. Within a matter of hours he had decided to paint a series of pictures in the county.
He first took a studio in Haverfordwest, then in Pembroke, and later in Stepaside, where he was once again appointed Artist in Residence. He later moved to Saint Davids, where he worked at the Studio Gallery when not out drawing and painting, or working in his studio at home.
Until it withdrew from Picton Castle in October 1995, Stan Rosenthal was visiting lecturer to the Graham Sutherland collection. In April 1996, in recognition of the publicity received by the county through his landscape paintings in public and private collections around the world, he was offered the prestigious post of Honorary Artist to the Chairman of the County Council. It was a title he was proud to accept as official recognition of the significance of art, even in our everyday lives.
The title of Honorary Artist to any county is in fact very rarely bestowed, and not surprisingly after accepting the title, Stan Rosenthal became even more a part of the 'local scene'. When he was not producing his own work, he could be found helping others with theirs, teaching local school children or their teachers, facilitating workshops, lecturing to local groups, or attending (and sometimes opening) various charitable functions around Pembrokeshire, as required of his official position.
He believes that it benefited him to do so because so many people were prepared to help him in return. The unusual perspectives he so often used are due in no small part to advice he received to climb a particular hill, or the result of being given permission to cross a field to gain a new viewpoint. He was befriended by many farmers in the area, and believes the finest accolade a landscape painter can receive is when a local farmer purchases a picture showing land which they live on, have worked themselves, and kept in good heart. One of his most recent works, ‘Robert’s Field’, shown here, results from his continuing friendship with Pembrokeshire farmer Robert Griffiths.
It is perhaps no coincidence that this London born painter had as his maternal forebears, farmers who worked the land and raised cattle on the Russian/Siberian Steppes before coming to the UK at the turn of the century. Whether it is because of his agrarian heritage or not, his depth of feeling for the soil is most certainly reflected in his landscapes, at which he excels, whether they be originals, hand finished proofs, original prints, or limited editions. In many of his Pembrokeshire pictures he captured the feeling of space so typical of the county, but in other instances he showed an uncanny ability in portraying the intimate landscape of the little inlets or harbours which are found around the coast in both the north and the south of the county.
When he moved to the south coast of England, where his interest in art began over sixty years ago, his work developed, perhaps as a result of the changing face of the landscape, but certainly because of the onset of arthritis in his thumbs. The result of this condition has been, in a manner parallel with that of Matisse, the continued simplification or minimalization of the forms with which he works. In some instances the rolling hills of the south or north downs, or the weald. His imaginative use of form has enabled Rosenthal to translate this genre into the shapes of buildings and the fishing boats that he still loves to draw, and from which he gains so much inspiration. In this respect he develops the tradition started in the west by Matisse, and initially developed by Piper, who also included the linear element introduced initially by Dufy.
Referring again to Piper’s printmaking colleague, Stanley Jones, it was whilst in the south-east of England that Rosenthal was to begin his collaboration with his illustrious near twin (they were born less than a month apart) at the Curwen Studio’s new location at Chilford near Cambridge. This fruitful collaboration has so far produced fourteen images in the space of two years. Even though Stanley Jones has officially retired, he still returns to the print workshop to advise and work with such artists as the famous Portuguese illustrator and portraitist, Paula Rego. It was of great delight to Stan Rosenthal when the Portuegese atrist expressed her admiration for one of his images, and offered to exchange one of hers, an offer that Rosenthal was delighted to accept.
As mentioned previously, Stanley Jones had printed for Piper and Sutherland, and he had also printed for Gacciometi, Henry Moore, Julian Trevelyan, Edward Ardizzone, Edward Bawden, and John Elwyn, another famous artist who was very happy to ‘swap’ images with Stan when he visited him in Pembrokeshire. More recently Jones has printed Elizabeth Frink, Mary Feddon, Peter Blake and Michael Rothenstein, whose brother John, when Director of Tate Britain, supported and congratulated Rosenthal on one occasion, when as a young man, he held an impromptu exhibition of his work by the gallery railings (he was later to have one of his poster designs exhibited inside the prestigious gallery).
Whilst the works of many artists are published as prints, it is worth noting that many of these are actually dot-matrix reproductions, produced as what should be low cost images, and bearing little relationship to genuine ‘artist’s prints’ or ‘original prints’ which Stan Rosenthal now produces in collaboration with the Curwen Studio, Advanced Graphics or Coriander Print Workshop, or in his own studio workshop. Collectors interested in the different printing and printmaking methods can read more in the relevant section, and if still perplexed are welcome to ‘phone the studio gallery.