Group Show in the newly refurbished Gallery space – plus work from the permanent display of Felix Topolski [1907- 1989] a prolific draughtsman – there’s a 600ft mural in the gallery depicting 20th century life.
Artists featured: Jonathan Bradbury, Lynn Hatzius, Rowan Newton, Froso Papadimitriou, Trevor Simmons
The Topolski Century
The Topolski Century of the Century is a unique, monumental work of art that presents an extraordinary panoramic record of key events and figures of the twentieth century. Six hundred feet long and between twelve and twenty feet high this labyrinthine installation exists as a testimony to some of the most significant moments and characters that shaped the twentieth century as witnessed by the artist Feliks Topolski (1907 – 1989).
Begun in 1975 and opened by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh in 1984 the Topolski Century depicts through figuration and abstraction an extraordinary array of portraits including: Nehru, Gandhi, Lord Mountbatten, George Bernard Shaw, Picasso, General de Gaulle, Martin Luther King, Enoch Powell, Nye Bevan and Laurence Olivier, among 700 other leading figures of the 20th Century.
These derive from Topolski’s own personal experience initially captured in pencil and ink drawings which he produced throughout his life and published in Topolski’s Chronicle.
Topolski was widely known as a war artist and chronicler of London’s social and cultural scene. He designed costumes and sets for the plays of George Bernard Shaw for whom he also illustrated many published works. He provided portraits for John Freeman’s 33 ground-breaking ‘Face to Face’ interviews. He also published 24 books of his own including his autobiography ‘Fourteen Letters’.
Topolski’s work is enjoying a fundamental reassessment with new displays at the National Portrait Gallery, Buckingham Palace and the Polish Cultural institute. Interest in the artist has also been resurrected in various museums and galleries that own his paintings and drawings including the V & A, Imperial War Museum, The Tate and The British Museum.
In an era saturated by media coverage of war and world events, Topolski’s eye witness account of the twentieth century carries a pertinence and energy that few other historical sources of this period offer. Mark Lawson, reviewing Topolski on BBC’s Front Row said that when comparing TV pictures (of the same events) with Topolski’s paintings, “Topolski comes off terribly well. He makes the case for art.”
Topolski’s concept of the artist as a figure concerned more with public that with private life holds a resonance with contemporary museum and gallery audiences keen to re-engage with history through personal memory and witness accounts.