Description: Study of a Head for 'Lights' oil on board 7 1/8 x 7 1/2 in. (18 x 19cm.) Painted in 1968
Artist or Maker: Michael Andrews (1928-1995)
Exhibited: London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Hayward Gallery, Michael Andrews, October 1980-January 1981, no. 75. This exhibition later travelled to Edinburgh, Fruit Market Gallery, January-February 1981; and Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, March-April 1991.
Provenance: Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London.
Acquired from the above by Miss Beston.
Notes: THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE MISS VALERIE BESTON: ARTISTS FROM THE LONDON SCHOOL
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This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Michael Andrews being prepared by James Hyman.
Painted in 1968, Study of a Head for Lights is a celebration of the era of artistic and musical creativity that exploded in the late Sixties. The rich colours of the background tell of the age of psychedelia and experimentation, while the contrasting cool and restraint of the subject and the colours in which he is painted reflect the different strands of music and fashion of the age as well as Andrews' versatility as a painter.
Study of a Head for Lights is one of a group of small paintings that Andrews executed in preparation for a larger project. Originally, Lights was to have been a painting of a large party filled with the people Andrews considered as 'enlightened'. Some of these were friends, a couple of the images were based on anonymous photographs, but many of them were based on musicians pictured in Melody Maker. Certainly the subject in Study of a Head for Lights has a Bob Dylan or John Lennon-like appearance with the round glasses and the large, unkempt hair. This gem-like painting has an iconic intensity that recalls the Pop works that were being created on the other side of the Atlantic, as do the colours of the background. However, Andrews believed that overly stylistic painting was obtrusive, and has accordingly painted this work in a neutral manner that allows the picture to speak for itself.
The intense poise and cool of this 'celebrity' hints at his self-confidence and self-knowledge. The title Lights evolved from Andrews' fascination with Rimbaud, and with his work Les illuminations in particular. Andrews took the theme of enlightenment and applied it to the partyworld of late Sixties London in which he was immersed. Thus the musicians were to appear as the new saints for a new generation. In fact, as was to happen several times in his career, the project for which the head studies were executed evolved into a painting with no heads at all: when Andrews finally embarked on the Lights series in 1970, his concept of enlightenment had become deeply personal and introverted, with his solitary self represented by the image of a hot air balloon floating over the desert.
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