The remarkable Found Landscapes of Roland Collins revealed at last by the Mascalls Gallery

By Richard Moss | 11 May 2012
a gouache painting of a harbour scene with a boat and rail head in the foreground
Roland Collins, Rye Harbour, 1958© Roland Collins. Courtesy Mascalls Gallery.
Exhibition: Roland Collins – Found Landscapes, Mascalls Gallery, Kent until June 30 2012

It’s a wonder, given the current taste for the mid-century modernists of English painting, that Roland Collins work isn’t better known.

In a career that spans more than half the past century, the 93-year-old’s paintings seem very much in the tradition of his near contemporaries, Eric Ravilious, John Piper and Paul Nash. Many of them even revisit the themes and areas that this famous triumvirate of English painters championed on the Kent and Sussex coasts. 

Now the public has a valuable chance to rediscover these lively artworks with an exhibition at the Mascalls Gallery in Kent which comes 75 years after Collins first exhibited a small landscape drawing in ink at the Royal Academy.

Roland Collins: Found Landscapes features paintings of Whitstable, Newhaven, Rye, Gravesend and Northfleet. Filled with characterful renderings of timber-clad cottages, fishing boats pulled onto shingle beaches and the marine detritus of anchors, cockle boilers and cranes, they seem to conjure a forgotten world. 

For some, these paintings may seem like the perfect fusion of the stylings and tropes of his more famous peers, but they also reveal a master of composition and someone with a finely honed understanding of how to balance abstraction with the demands of colour, rhythm and pattern.

It’s an infectious blend that gives the works a strangely familiar air. Some of the later London paintings seem to have all the architectural qualities – including a strong sense of the picturesque and a wild, Romantic dilapidation – of classic John Piper.

But then they are also imbued with a vibrancy and sensibility of colour, peppered with graphical elements and patterns that recall the work of someone like Edward Bawden.
Collins has for years been the province of a small band of dedicated collectors. This exhibition, with many works on sale, may finally see this famously modest artist and "best kept secret" of the art world enjoy a wider audience - and a popularity that his talents evidently deserve.

More pictures:

a painting of a coastal scene with shingle beaches, breakwaters, boats and a building in the distance
The Old Neptune, Whitstable, 1968© Roland Collins. Courtesy Mascalls Gallery
a painting of two classical arches in a cemetery
Gunnersbury Park, 1990© Roland Collins. Courtesy Mascalls Gallery
a painting of a harbour scene with flint house in the foreground
Rye Harbour, 1958© Roland Collins. Courtesy Mascalls Gallery
  • The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated book with an extended essay by Andrew Lambirth - art historian and art critic for The Spectator (£9.90).
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