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Sunday, August 10, 2014

James Dickson Innes

Vernet Provincial Landscape, 1908-13, James Dickson Innes
Girl Standing by the Lake, 1911,
James Dickson Innes. He was
absent the day they taught figures.
There's nothing new about people in the same business having the same or similar names. There are several other artists now and then with the name Lane. Fitz Hugh Lane, was a 19th century American Luminist, for one. Identical names are more likely to cut across into different professions. According to my e-mail, someone seems to think I'm a doctor (I don't even look like a doctor). Among the more renown Jim Lanes was a Civil War era general, the mayor of Scottsdale, Arizona, the aforementioned doctor, lawyers, a multi-millionaire former Microsoft genius (no relation, unfortunately), and a guitar playing-recording artist. There was even a British Victorian era artist named Richard James Lane. For writers such as myself, similar or identical names are a bothersome fact of life.
Collioure (France), 1911, James Dickson Innes
James Dickson Innes,
1913, Ian Strang.

When art lovers hear the name, Innes, they immediately bring to mind the work of the Philadelphia painter from the late 19th century, George Innes. His exquisitely rendered landscapes, portraits, and figures can be found in virtually every American art museum. The name Innes pops up in British art too, though not nearly as high nor as often. James Dickson Innes was a turn-of-the-(20th)-century artist born in 1887, who died from tuberculosis in 1914 at the age of twenty-seven. That would, of course, account for the fact neither he, nor his work, is particularly well-know, particularly outside of England. Yet for one so young, one so short-lived, James Dickson Innes left behind a significant body of work.

Caravan, James Dickson Innes. As an artist Innes traveled around in search of
subject matter. It's not known if this was his home away from home or one
he encountered. Innes was equally adept at watercolors as oils.
Corner of a Room, 1909
James Dickson Innes
Innes might well have been better known had he been French or German, rather than English. He would have felt right at home with the Post-impressionist of his time, particularly the Fauves like Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck, and Metzinger. He would likely have felt a special affinity to Henri Rousseau as well. He could just as easily have been classed a German Expressionist. As it was, rather than being considered a Fauvist or Post-impressionist, Innes was considered merely inept. His many landscapes were too colorful, somewhat simplified, and more than a little childlike for British tastes. The English tended to be a rather conservative lot at the time.  Had he lived just a few years longer, such work would have gotten high praise from the new generation of Modern artists which arose after the war. He could well have become a leader in the Post-WW I Modern Art movement. Instead, dying young, simply got him forgotten.
Pembrook Coast (northern Wales), 1911-12, James Dickson Innes,
Head of a Gypsy, 1909,
James Dickson Innes.
He was no portrait painter.
It was only after the fact, after the advent of what we know today as Modern Art, that Innes' work gained any recognition and respect. He's often seen today as a predecessor and influence to British artists such as Lucien Freud and David Hockney. Innes had the background, the training, and the academic credentials to have become such a leader. He was educated at Christ College, Brecon; then studied at the Carmarthen School of Art, where he won a full scholarship to the Slade School of Art in London--all before he turned twenty. Even so, his skill as a painter was somewhat limited. He limited himself to mostly landscapes, painted no portraits (not even his own), depicted few figures, and his interiors (above, right) number barely more than a handful. He's fascinating, his work colorful, his landscapes varied and reasonably well done, but he was no George Innes.

A Scene in a Theatre A Performance Seen from a Box in which
Three figures are Standing, James Dickson Innes. He shows improvement.


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