Carel Weight Project

I met Carel Weight in 1982. I collected his paintings and we became friends. He died in 1997 and after that I continued as one of the executors of his estate. There were four of us. Jeff Horwood and Charles Goodman have sadly died during the past year. The other remaining executor is the painter Maurice Sheppard, who was also a good friend of Carel’s. Maurice has been punctilious about preserving his memories of Carel and persuading his friends to do likewise. He tells me that I should do the same, as I am not, that being the universal fate of men, growing any younger. This is my attempt to do so.

Our starting point is that Carel is a very good painter who has not yet received his due. He has not had proper critical scrutiny, nor a full retrospective exhibition. There were two shows in the 1980s, but they predated some of his largest and scariest late pieces.

He has not only been poorly recorded but such material as has been written about him tends to caricature him. He has been easily pigeon-holed as an English eccentric narrative painter, to be bracketed with such people as Spencer and Burra, outside the mainstream, maladroit but charming. This in our view is completely to misunderstand him. The fullest biography of him, that by R. V. Weight, doesn’t, from that point of view, help.

I will not attempt any such critical scrutiny as I am not technically qualified to do so. What I will do is to offer my own recollections of the man and his work, his history, his conversation and his tactics, and I’ll try to encourage others to do the same. I’ll post pieces on my blog among other pieces about other things, and we’ll also try to build up a website for Carel, which will include my pieces as well as whatever others, including I hope Maurice, want to publish.

That should comprise a resource for whoever eventually does attempt the proper critical scrutiny.

This is not the place for a bibliography. That can follow in due course. However, these are the most readily available and comprehensive works on Carel Weight:

R. V. Weight: Carel Weight: A Haunted Imagination David & Charles 1994

Mervyn Levy: Carel Weight Royal Academy 1986

Angela Weight: Carel Weight: A War Retrospective Imperial War Museum1995

Cathy Courtenay: National Life Story Collection: Artists’ Lives British Library 1991

Cathy Courteney’s interview can be obtained from the British Library. The other three books are out of print but can usually be found on Abebooks. Neither R. V. nor Angela Weight, curiously, were relations.

An account of the works in the Tate’s collection can be found here . Google has a fund of images and links for commercial galleries that hold his work.


8 thoughts on “Carel Weight Project”

  1. Hello. I’m very pleased to read something new about Carel Weight. I first became aware of him in the late 80’s, early 90’s in an article in the Artist’s and Illustrators magazine. I kept it for years but unfortunately lost in in a house move. If you know anyone who has a copy, please email it my way. I’ve got the books, read Cathy’s fabulous transcript and now all I need is the T shirt! I too, am bemused at the lack of recognition for Carel Weight. I am interested in the life and work of David Hockney and his RA exhibition has been hugely successful but I am surprised that throughout the months it has been up and receiving massive coverage that there has been no mention of the influence and similarities in style and subject matter to his past tutor, Carel Weight. Compare to Pleas email me to discuss more.

    1. I don’t have that I’m afraid, but I do have other articles and catalogues. There are no t-shirts – though nothing is impossible – but there is the tie. And the mug. Both collectors’ items now.

      I entirely agree about Hockney, who I think is grudging about the influence that Carel Weight had on him. And I entirely agree about those images. I have a painting by Carel with a tree waving its branches in a very animate (and animated) way, and very solid shadows on the ground. I was astonished when I went into the hawthorn room at the RA show. I’m sure that Hockney didn’t steal it, but they were thinking along very much the same lines. In Carel’s painting there is a naked couple flying through the sky, which is not Hockney’s style.

      It looks as if a dedicated site for Carel Weight is a probability. Watch this space.

      1. Dear Robin Bynoe

        I tried to contact you last year via your former employer, Charles Russell & Co., but they did not reply to my emails. Eileen Hogan suggested that I contact you via your blog.

        When I was Keeper of Art at the Imperial War Museum I asked Carel to deposit his war artist letters with the IWM, which he kindly did. I am hoping to find a publisher for a new edition of `A Curious Captain’, with an introductory essay by me, colour illustrations throughout and revised footnotes, among other things. It would of course be necessary to have your permission, and that of Maurice Sheppard, to republish the letters, as the IWM does not own the copyright.

        I have written a book proposal and I should very much like to send this to you and discuss the project with you. Would you be kind enough to let me have your contact details? (Email and/or postal address).

        Yours sincerely

        Angela Weight

  2. Robin Bynoe has outlined the “basic” books about Carel Weight’s Life and Work, Carel did write himself and Edit too. During his period as a War Artist he wrote home to his friend Helen Roeder, she kept these letters. In her wisdom Professor Eileen Hogan RWS asked Helen to edit these and allow her to publish them through the Camberwell School of Art Press. The book is called – “The Curious Captain” Carel Weight war Artist 1939 – 1945 Letters to Helen Roeder Edited by Helen Roeder Camberwell School of Art 1989. This is a rare book published in a Limited Edition of 180 copies.

    Maurice Sheppard

    1. Hello, Maurice. I agree that the Curious Captain is invaluable. I believe that there was an edition in addition to the limited and numbered one, but the book is hard to find. There are no copies advertised on Abebooks currently

    2. Thank you for that information – I wasn’t aware of ‘The Curious Captain’. A quick search did indeed prove the rarity of this publication. I’ve read in Cathy Courtenay’s interview about Carel’s Oxford illustrated Bible. As he says, it’s a “major project”. I would love to see a copy of but, like the Curious Captain it is proving rather elusive.
      In the same interview I was fascinated to see he knew Edward Ardizzone and refers to him as “Ted… a very comfortable fat man”. It’s just a shame the interviewer seemed to cut him off half way through talking more Ardizzone – I would love to know more about their relationship.

      1. The Oxford Bible does turn up occasionally and is well worth buying, not just for Carel’s pictures. John Bratby’s are wonderful and there are one or two by Hockney. The original drawings also turn up from time to time. Many of them are the first appearances of themes and locations that turn up later in paintings. I have one of Elijah and the widow woman with sticks. They are standing by the South Circular on Spencer Park, though you wouldn’t realise that if you didn’t know. She turned up from time to time in his paintings for the rest of his life. The Go Between illustrations, twenty five years later, are also great drawings, regularly to be found at auction, but Folio Society made an awful mess of publishing them.

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