Artist biography

English painter, illustrator and designer. He studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art (1921–3) and at the Slade School of Art (1923–4) followed by two years in Paris (1926–8). Medley was a founder-member of the anti-fascist Artists International Association. In his paintings he explored social and humanist themes, depicting the daily life of ordinary people, and also experimented with Surrealism. During World War II he served as a camouflage officer. On his return to England he produced figurative works on a variety of subjects, ranging from a series about cyclists to mythological scenes. Following a representative approach his delicate, almost feather-like brushstrokes created work of great sensitivity. For a time he experimented successfully with an abstract style, as in Figuration in White (1963; London, Tate), always with a sure sense of composition but with little of the autobiographical import that informed his best work. In later work Medley dwelt upon the autobiographic content of his earlier pictures to create images that analysed relationships between people and his attitude towards himself. He held the positions of Head of Theatre Design, Slade School of Art, London (1949–58), and of Fine Art at Camberwell School of Arts & Crafts, London (1958–65). In 1994 an exhibition of his work was held at the Coram Gallery, London, and he won the Charles Woolaston Prize, awarded for Preparation for the Execution, the most distinguished work in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 1994.

Robert Medley, 1928–1963 (exh. cat., London, Whitechapel A.G., 1963)
Robert Medley Paintings, 1928–1984 (exh. cat., Oxford, MOMA; Colchester, Minories, 1984)


Article provided by Grove Art Online