Richard Warren

"Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Lawrence Atkinson: a little gallery

Surprisingly few pieces by Lawrence Atkinson appear to have been recorded, or to have survived. Here are those for which images are available. “Minor” artists are usually exhibited or illustrated in incoherent dribs and drabs, and it’s instructive to lay out Atkinson’s work in more quantity, and note the connections and disconnections.

Drawings and paintings, in whatever medium, are shown together, grouped loosely by apparent subject: landscape, interior and still life; the figure; sculptural abstractions. The sculptures follow. Unless dates appear to be firm and specific, I have ignored them; the “c. 1914-20” and similar attached by curators are usually guesswork. A few works exhibited in 1974 for which I can find no images are also listed.

Abstract Art = “Abstract Art in England 1913-1915”, d’Offay Couper Gallery, Nov-Dec 1969
Allies 1974 = “Vorticism and its allies”, Hayward Gallery, March – June 1974
Tate 2011 = “The Vorticists”, June – Sept 2011
Shipp = Horace Shipp, The New Art. A Study of the Principles of non-representational Art and their application in the work of Lawrence Atkinson, Cecil Palmer, London, 1922

Landscape, interior, still life

Landscape 1912, oils, Southampton City Art Gallery, 95 x 73.3 cm

The Lake, pen & ink, watercolour, Tate Gallery, 25.4 x 36.8 cm

Study – Café Tables, gouache, pen & ink, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 20 x 16 cm

A 2005 copy in oils on wood of the “The Lake”, by Christian Atkinson, the artist’s grandson, and titled “The Lake (No 3)”, is shown here.

Interior, pen & ink, Shipp

Abstract Composition, ink, crayon & watercolour, Tate 2011, Abstract Art 2; 33 x 21.6 cm

Abstract Composition, pen, ink & gouache, Mayor Gallery

Abstract Composition, pencil & coloured crayons, Allies 1974, 80.54 x 54.5 cm

Abstract Composition, pastels, Bonhams 2004, 24 x 16.5 cm

Still Life, 1919? in ‘Coterie’ No 2 Sept 1919

In the catalogue to “Abstract Art in England 1913-1915”, 1969, the “Abstract Composition” in the centre of the upper row is shown inverted. The position as shown here seems to be correct.

It is interesting that the second “Abstract Composition” immediately above, while identical to the first in all but the smallest details, is significantly smaller and is said to be done in pastels, a medium not noted for any other piece. It is signed at the lower edge.


Limelight, pencil & watercolour, Shipp

Figure Study: Design for Sculpture, c1922, watercolour, Victoria & Albert Museum, 45.5 x 27.5 cm

Marchers, pen & ink, watercolour, Shipp

A 1974 copy in oils or acrylics of the Victoria & Albert “Figure Study”, by Christian Atkinson, the artist’s grandson, and titled “The New Art”, is shown here. Christian Atkinson claims that “This painting depicts Lawrence Atkinson himself on stage, accompanied on piano by his wife (my grandmother). He was an opera singer before he took to art and poetry.”

Dance Movement, pencil & watercolour, Shipp

Study of a Figure in Relation to its Environment, pencil & watercolour, Shipp

Figure Study, “Painting on wood panel” – oils? Shipp

Figure Study: Design for Sculpture, c1922, watercolour, Victoria & Albert, 45.5 x 27.5 cm

The Sky Pilot, 1918? ‘Wheels’ 3 1918 front cover

The drawing “The Sky Pilot”, by its title and appearance, suggests a human figure. But rotated clockwise by 90 degrees, it appears to be an image of an aeroplane, flying to the left.

Sculptural abstractions

Abstract, oils, Arts Council of Great Britain, 29.5 x 51 cm

Vorticist Composition, oils, Sherwin Collection, Leeds, 106.5 x 85 cm

Abstract Composition No 1, pencil, pen & ink, gouache & collage, Leeds Art Gallery, 25 x 17 cm

Vital (“Study for Sculpture”), pencil & watercolour, Shipp

Vital, ink & watercolour, Abstract Art 3, 61.5 x 41.5 cm

Vital, ink & watercolour, Abstract Art 3, Allies 1974 398, 61.5 x 41.5 cm

“Vital (Study for Sculpture)”  as reproduced in Shipp seems to be a photo of the original, but with the background blacked out to throw the form into contrast, making it more sculptural.

The “Vorticism and its allies” show of 1974 also included these pieces, for which I can find no image:

“Abstract Figure Drawing”, black ink, 36 x 23.5 cm.
“Abstract Design”, ink & watercolour on card, 11.5 x 9 cm.
“Vorticist Figure”, pencil & watercolour, 26.5 x 21cm.
“Abstract Composition No 3”, pencil, ink, pastel & collage, 32.5 x 26.5 cm. (Related to “Abstract Composition No 1” above?) 


All images of sculptures are scanned from photos in Shipp, and all captions except one follow the captions there. I am not aware of the location of any surviving pieces. One sculpture was exhibited at the Tate in 1956 in the “Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism” show; since then they seem to have been invisible.

They are arranged here in what I take to be an approximate order of development, the more angular (Vorticist) forms preceding the more organic.

Low Relief, stone, in frame of green wood

Sculpture, painted

In the Beginning, stone

The photograph labelled here as “Sculpture, painted” shows signs of hand colouring in the original. However, the surfaces of the actual sculpture also appear to have been painted in colours.


Untitled sculpture

Earthbound, stone

The piece labelled “untitled” above appears in the frontispiece photo to Shipp. A copy of this in wood, painted white, made by Christian Atkinson in 2008 and titled “Blades” is shown here. (Other similar pieces on the same page are not copies of Lawrence Atkinson’s work.)


L’Oiseau, 1921?

Memorial, Sculpture for a Cenotaph

“L’Oiseau” was awarded Grand Prix at the Milan Exhibition of 1921, though it may date from an earlier year. The photo in Shipp indicates that the surface of this piece was painted in colours, at least in part.


Evasion (different view)


Sculpture, alabaster

Aloof, polished wood


The piece noted as in alabaster was shown at the Tate in 1956, the owner given as Miss Jean Temple. An oil painting also lent by Miss Temple (“Abstract”, first in the third section of paintings above) is now owned by the Arts Council. I do not know if this sculpture is also in their keeping.


The Eternal


2 responses to “Lawrence Atkinson: a little gallery

  1. Andy Parkinson July 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    these are wonderful
    one great thing about ‘minor’ artists is that you haven’t already been bombarded by their images so they can seem fresher than ‘major’ art.

  2. richardawarren July 30, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    That’s a very good point. And there’s so much out there still to uncover. Glad you like them. I’ll be adding the Atkinson sculptures asap.

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