Tom Fairs - Homage To Bonnard At The Mercer Art Gallery

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 30 January 2008
a painting of a landscape with a meadow in the foreground and mountains in the background

Tom Fairs, Col de coucheron. Courtesy Mercer Art Gallery

Exhibition Preview - Tom Fairs (1925 - 2007) - Homage to Bonnard at the Mercer Art Gallery Harrogate until April 20, 2008.

The Mercer Art Gallery is paying tribute to an artist who rarely exhibited in his lifetime, despite his prolific output and talent.

The late artist Tom Fairs taught for 30 years at the Central School of Art and Design in London, yet opted out of the gallery world, though his works were repeatedly selected for the Royal Academy’s summer exhibitions.

a painting of a ship in a dock

Tom Fairs, Greenwich Dock. Courtesy Mercer Art Gallery

“Tom Fairs was an extraordinarily talented and prolific painter whose work was barely known outside London circles,” says Jane Sellars, Harrogate Borough Council Curator of Art. “It’s a great coup for the Mercer Art Gallery to bring the artist’s work to Harrogate and it will be much enjoyed by our visitors.”

Fairs left school at 15 to become a Post Office messenger boy, where he won an art competition for employees. It encouraged him to attend evening classes at Hornsey School of Art, from where he progressed to the Royal College of Art, studying stained glass design as his specialisation.

an impressionist style painting showing a bridge in an ornamental garden

Tom Fairs, Richmond Park. Courtesy Mercer Art Gallery

He went on to create several public commissions in stained glass, including working on the windows of the new Coventry Cathedral. He taught fine art and stained glass at the Central School of Art and Design from 1954 to 1987.

After retiring from teaching, Fairs was able to achieve his aim of drawing and painting every single day, for the next 17 years.

His hero was French Modern Master Pierre Bonnard, who Fairs emulated in looking at the ordinariness of everyday life with delight. He also shared the same birthday as Bonnard.

an abstract painting resembling a woodland

Tom Fairs, Where the late birds sings. Courtesy Mercer Art Gallery

Fairs painted the view from his Hampstead window, the trees in the park, dusk falling over the Thames and clutter on the kitchen table, imbuing all with a muted, impressionistic, quality.

He sought no publicity for his work, and this is the first large-scale exhibition of his paintings in a public gallery, with more than 40 landscapes and still-lifes. Most of his work has never been seen by the public, making this a wonderful chance to see the reclusive painter’s works.

This is an exhibition preview - if you have been to see the show, why not let us know what you think?

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