Robert Polhill Bevan (5 August 1865 – 8 July 1925) was an English painter, draughtsman and lithographer. He was a founding member of the Camden Town Group, the London Group, and the Cumberland Market Group.
Stanislawa de Karlowska, at a friend’s wedding in Jersey. After a brief but frequent correspondence,1 conducted in French, their only common language, Bevan made the journey to Poland and the two were married in Warsaw in December. They returned to Bevan’s parents’ house, Horsgate, in Cuckfield in Sussex (fig.3), where their first child, Edith Halina, ‘Halszka’, was born in December 1898. A son, Robert Alexander, ‘Bobby’, followed in March 1901.
In 1900, Bevan and his family moved to a large house at 14 Adamson Road, in the Swiss Cottage area of London. Although he abandoned the paintings and lithographs of hunting scenes and never hunted again after his marriage, he still drew inspiration for subjects for painting from the countryside. He formed the habit of spending the summer on a painting trip in various rural locations such as a cottage called St Ives in Kingston near Lewes, Sussex (fig.4), or in Russian Poland with his wife’s family. His work at this time reflected his first-hand experience with recent French art during his travels on the continent. Oil paintings and watercolours of agricultural scenes of the South Downs or Poland provided motifs with which to explore his concerns with the effects of light and the use of colour. Philip Hendy (later Director of the National Gallery) claimed that Bevan was the first Englishman to use pure colour in the twentieth century and was the ‘real pioneer’ of the modern English school.2 Some indication of the progressive nature of Bevan’s early paintings can be gauged by the newspaper reviews of his first solo exhibition held at the Baillie Gallery in 1905. Bevan’s show, which featured recent Polish work, appeared five years before Roger Fry’s first post-impressionist exhibition, when the most avant-garde paintings seen in London would have been those of Claude Monet and the impressionists. The critics were unprepared for Bevan’s application of neo- and post-impressionist principles. They vilified his use of ‘violent’ and ‘garish’ colour ‘which has an evil habit of losing control over itself’,3 calling it ‘uncompromising’ and ‘French impressionism gone to the bad’.4
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