An Australian Artist in London
Artist(s): Hewitt Henry Rayner
Author(s): Roger Staton, Matthew Sturgis (foreword)
Year published: 2013
Publisher: Pegasus Press
Total Pages: 320
Illustrations: Illustrated in colour throughout
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The Untold Story of Hewitt Henry Rayner (1902-1957) and His Friendship with Walter Sickert
The book covers Rayner’s formative years growing up in Australia and New Zealand, his arrival in England in 1923, his experiences at the Royal Academy Schools, and his struggle to pursue his art in the face of poverty, ill health, war injuries, the economic depression of the 1930s and (as he saw it) the hostility of the British art community.
The story is rich in detail, thanks to information from his own notes and unpublished manuscripts, discovered in 2003, supplemented by original research in Australia and the UK. The 320-page book is also copiously illustrated with over 100 examples of his drypoint work, drawings and paintings, together with previously unpublished family photographs.
Rayner’s decade-long friendship with Walter Sickert is a central theme of the book. Other characters who flit in and out of the story include Augustus John, Nina Hamnett, Ethel Mannin, Arnold Bennett, Philip Wilson Steer, Yoshio Markino, and Charles Sims.
The Foreword to this new biography has been contributed by Matthew Sturgis, the Sickert expert and author of the authoritative 2005 biography ‘Sickert: a life’ (Harper Collins). Sturgis sees it as “… a useful and enduring addition to the story of early Twentieth Century British art …. it adds many things to the record of Sickert’s life, his working practices, his teaching methods, his work-spaces, and his character.”