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Charles Robert Owen Medley CBE, RA, (19 December 1905 - 20 October 1994), always known as Robert Medley, was an English artist and educator.

Contents

Early life

Medley was born in London, the son of Charles Medley, a distinguished copyright lawyer who was friends with most major writers of the day. He was educated at Gresham's School, Holt, Norfolk (1919-1923), the Byam Shaw School of Art in 1923-1924, Royal Academy Schools in 1924, at the Slade School of Fine Art in 1924-1926, and at Paris in 1926-1928.

Front cover of Medley's autobiography (1983).

At school Medley was the friend of W. H. Auden who first suggested that Auden might write poetry (although Medley did not know at the time that he had this effect). As described in his memoir, Drawn from the Life, in his early years he believed he was heterosexual (and therefore did not understand Auden's erotic intentions toward him until they spent a single weekend together after both had left school). Until he was seduced at 19 (he recalled later), "I was still under the illusion that I was entirely heterosexual."[1]

Career

In Paris in 1926 he met an English dancer Rupert Doone, with whom he lived for the rest of Doone's life. In 1932 he and Doone cofounded the Group Theatre (London), for which Medley served as artistic director, either designing the Group's productions or supervising designs that included masks by Henry Moore. Medley and Doone invited Auden to write plays for the Group, and through Auden Medley met Stephen Spender, Louis MacNeice, and others who became associated with the Group.

In 1929-1934 he worked with Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, and he exhibited paintings with the London Group from 1929. His first solo show was at the London Artists' Association in 1932. During the 1930s he worked mostly in various avant-garde styles, and had a painting in the International Surrealist Exhibition in London in 1936. In 1937 Medley founded the Artists' International Association (AIA), which promoted socialist and avant-garde art. In 1938 he chaired a widely-noticed debate between Realists and Surrealists organized by the AIA.

During the Second World War he served as an official war artist. He taught at the Chelsea Art School (now part of the Chelsea College of Art and Design) in 1945-49, at the Slade School of Fine Art in 1958-66, and as chairman of the faculty of painting at the British School in Rome in 1966-77. He was appointed CBE in 1982 and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1986.

In the 1950s he was one of the first English painters who turned to abstraction, but in later years returned to figurative painting. These last paintings are the most widely-respected of his works.

A retrospective exhibition was held at Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1963. A centenary tribute at James Hyman Fine Art (a London gallery) in 2005 was accompanied by a catalogue with essays about Medley's work.

Work in public collections

Work in private galleries

Notes

  1. ^ Medley, Robert (1983). Drawn from the Life, a memoir. London: Faber and Faber. p. 54. ISBN 0-571-13043-7.  

References

  • Robert Medley, Answers to Unanswerable Questions (1973; lecture)
  • Robert Medley, Drawn from the Life: A Memoir (1983)
  • (Unsigned), "Robert Medley", Daily Telegraph, 24 October 1994, p. 25
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