A selection from the recently discovered private collection and portfolio of work by unknown artist and secondary art teacher, Stanley Dyson (1920-2007) was exhibited by Robert Young Antiques from 18th March to 23rd April 2011 at 68 Battersea Bridge Road, London.
Robert and Josyane Young spotted the collection of over 500 pictures at a regional auction house in Beccles in 2007. After trawling through 40 pictures by the unknown artist they were immediately struck by Dyson's striking and extraordinarily sensitive use of colour. They became even more fascinated by the collection and subsequently purchased every single picture.
'Vase of Tall Dried Flowers on the Round Table' by Stanley Dyson
"We have never bought such an extensive collection before, let alone by one artist, but we liked it immediately and knew that we wanted to keep it in its entirety. I remember the preview of the auction, how the colours and composition of the fourth picture I looked at hit me and I just knew we had to have the lot" commented Robert Young.
Stanley Dyson was born in Whittington, on the outskirts of Chesterfield, Derbyshire. He was the only child of poor working class parents and when his mother died at the age of five he went to live with his grandmother, at the edge of the Peak District. It was here that his love of drawing developed - as a lonely boy he would cycle across the peaks sketching local churches and landscapes. He was so dedicated that Nicholas Pevsner's team on the 'Buildings of England' series reputedly commissioned the teenage Dyson to take dimensions and make sketches of local Derbyshire monuments.
After leaving school at 16, Stanley went to work as a clerk in the local Sheep Bridge Steelworks and may have stayed there, but for the outbreak of war in 1939. He joined the Navy and on his return in 1946 found that he qualified for an assisted place at the Liverpool City Art School. He spent a year there before returning home in 1950 to start his career as an Art Teacher at the local New Whittington secondary school. Dyson taught in Derbyshire for 16 years. He then left his roots behind and moved to Norfolk in 1966, where he put away his paintbrushes for good.
On Stanley Dyson's death in 2007, the house clearers discovered a large number of his paintings hidden away in his attic 'studio' together with two folios of selected works by children. These paintings were an incredible discovery from an artistic 'hermit' who had never offered for sale or even exhibited a single work. As a result Robert Young Antiques have conducted extensive research to find out more about this man, his pictures and who the child painters might be.
"Stanley had a very creative and powerful instinct. The psychological relationship he had with his work is fascinating. He treated every canvas with so much devotion, care and attention. With every picture he is experimenting and pushing his personal boundaries as an artist, something he was unable to do publicly", adds Robert.
Dyson is something of an 'Outsider Artist', loosely linked to the naive genre of art. He is perhaps not technically an Outsider Artist (defined by French painter Jean Dubuffet as art created outside the boundaries of official culture), but he was creating art away from the mainstream and was not part of any school of artists. It is assumed that Stanley, whilst experimenting and sometimes wrestling with various styles and techniques, produced his own works as examples and then used these to teach the children, who Robert Young Antiques estimate to be between 10 and 12 years old. Examples of this can be clearly observed in the various versions of Paddle Steamer and Industrial Landscape with Flaming Chimneys created by both Dyson and his pupils.
Photograph of Stanley Dyson, C 1947-50
'Paddle steamer leaving harbour' by Stanley Dyson
'Paddle steamer and lighthouse' by child
'A1 Fish and Chip Saloon' by Stanley Dyson
The execution, materials and the inspired palette Stanley employed conspire to produce a fine body of naive artworks. His work is immediate and fresh. His compositions are subtle and confident and his early and Art School period work shows a young artist developing the classical skills of mainstream representational Art. His draughtsmanship is especially confident and occasionally inspired. The pictures show him tackling one artistic style after another, but they are never a pastiche. He somehow captures the essence of the style, but then takes it somewhere else, adding a nuance that is distinctly Dyson. "It is the curious naive element to his oeuvre that attracted us. While he did have a year's formal training, he still has many qualities in common with the "Outsider Artist" and similar compulsive and obsessive urges to create", says Josyane Young.
'J.Archybold fishmonger' signed by child painter Stuart Mathews
Robert Young Antiques were particularly inspired by the qualities displayed in the works of Dyson's pupils. Throughout the collection there is often an obvious relationship between his work and that of the children and in many cases it is hard to be certain which came first, the child's picture or the Dyson. Josyane comments "It was our intention to show a selection of works by the children with our Stanley Dyson Exhibition because we believe that this relationship informs Dyson's work, and both have been hidden away for nearly half a century." We also believe that Children's Art deserves some recognition and a small place in the overall narrative of mainstream art history.
Stanley Dyson's and the schoolchildren's work settles somewhere on the boundary of Robert Young Antiques specialisation in Antique and historic Folk, Primitive and Naive Art. During their research they found amongst his papers a description of Abstract Art that Dyson wrote with his students in mind. In it he says "...the art of this Century is a reflection of the age, restless, experimental, often ugly and aggressive, but at its best a true expression of man's feelings, and not a weak copy of earlier styles." Stanley Dyson was inspired by the artistic age he lived in, and privately strove to become a part of it, however quietly and primitively.