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Hans Schwarz: a Life in Art

Collection of works and objects from the Schwarz bequest. This exhibition is now closed.



Lena in Meadow
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Schwarz, Hans
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Lena Schwarz trained as a teacher at the University of Birmingham and taught in Birmingham primary schools before the birth of their first child, Stephen.
From the moment Schwarz first laid eyes on her, Lena Jones, his future wife, occupied his heart and his sketchbooks. “When I first noticed her on a tram in Birmingham, she looked great.” He continued to paint her up until his death and said “I find it hard to see her as an old lady.”



Lena Reading
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Schwarz, Hans
BIRRC-A1099

Lena Schwarz trained as a teacher at the University of Birmingham and taught in Birmingham primary schools before the birth of their first child, Stephen.
From the moment Schwarz first laid eyes on her, Lena Jones, his future wife, occupied his heart and his sketchbooks. “When I first noticed her on a tram in Birmingham, she looked great.” He continued to paint her up until his death and said “I find it hard to see her as an old lady.”



Mr and Mrs Jack Yates
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Schwarz, Hans
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Jack Yates is a poet, photographer, teacher and artist. He and his wife were friends of Hans and Lena Schwarz in Hampstead and Jack contributed to a number of the books on art practice written by Schwarz. Yates spent over 20 years as a teacher at the Camden Arts Centre, teaching figure drawing, portraiture, painting and experimental techniques. He was also a writer on topics such as collage.
Hanne Yates is an artist and teacher. She taught puppet-making at Camden Arts Centre for much of her career following a stint as a primary school teacher in her native Germany. She worked with paper-cutting in her artistic life. She co-wrote Collage (1981) with her husband whilst the couple also collaborated on Fragments, a graphic art and poetry magazine that ran for a number of years (1995 - 2004).
Note the unfinished quality to the painting, with the watch drawn in pencil, the sketch lines apparent and the missing head… Painted in his characteristic orange, a colour associated with strong emotions, what strong emotions might have caused Schwarz to portray Hanne in this way?



Portrait of Clive and David Swift
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Schwarz, Hans
BIRRC-A1093

Clive Swift is a British comedy actor and songwriter. Best known for his role as Richard Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances (1990-95), he has appeared in numerous BBC productions including The Old Guys (2009 - 2010), Born and Bred (2002 – 2005) and the BBC adaptation of The Pickwick Papers (1985). He spent eight years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, with roles including Falstaff in the Merry Wives of Windsor and Cloten in Cymbeline.

David Swift made his acting debut later in life, following his brother onto the small screen in the 1960’s after a career in business. The role of the news reader Henry Davenport in Drop the Dead Donkey (1990 – 1998) gave him his breakthrough, following a career of supporting roles mainly on television. This included a role in Bloomers (1979) starring alongside Richard Beckinsdale, a series cut short by Beckinsdale’s untimely death.



Portrait of Ivor Cutler
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Schwarz, Hans
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Ivor Cutler was a poet, song-writer, performer, teacher, humourist and classic British eccentric. He was born in Glasgow to parents who had fled Eastern European pogroms. Cutler was a drama and music teacher for over thirty years, with an unorthodox teaching style that involved spontaneous, improvised lessons. His eccentricities delighted his pupils, but tended to terrify parents and head teachers. He briefly taught at AS Neill's Summerhill school, innovative in its free style of teaching, and continued teaching in inner city London primary schools until 1980.
Concurrent with his teaching, he discovered his voice as a songwriter in the 1950s. After years of attempting to get his songs published, he decided to sing them himself and released his first album in 1961. Cutler's distinctive Scottish baritone, generally accompanied by harmonium, became a trademark of his work as much as his imaginative, often surreal lyrics. His singular style found a place at the BBC, where he broadcast on Home Service radio shows like Monday Night at Home and television shows such as The Acker Bilk Show and Late Night Line-Up. Further mainstream fame came when he appeared in the Beatles’ film Magical Mystery Tour (1967) as the bus conductor Buster Bloodvessel and when one of his albums, Ludo (1967), was produced by George Martin. He was introduced to a new, younger audience in the 1970s when he became known for his poetry performances on John Peel’s radio programmes and when his albums were re-issued in the 1990s.



Portrait of John Bennett
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Schwarz, Hans
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John Bennett abandoned early ambitions of becoming an architect to train as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama. For much of his forty five year career he was a character actor in television drama appearing in dozens of productions, including The Forsyte Saga (1967), I, Claudius (1975) and Dr Who (1974 and 1977). His film credits include roles in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The House that Dripped Blood (1970), Watership Down (1978) and The Pianist (2002), alongside numerous theatre roles. One production that briefly made him instantly recognizable was a central role in Honey Lane (1967-1969). This weekly soap was one of the many 1960s productions that attempted to match the popularity of Coronation Street. Bennett played a fruit and veg stall holder in a tale of Cockney street market traders in East London, twenty years before East Enders recreated the format.
This portrait was completed for the Ben Yuri Gallery exhibition focusing on Jewish cultural figures. Bennett was a character actor in the classic sense, famous for his brooding eyes and cadaverous features, which Schwarz captures and gives him a certain proud but dejected air.



Portrait of Miriam Karlin
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Schwarz, Hans
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Miriam Karlin was best known for her role as the combative shop steward Paddy in the 1960s BBC sitcom The Rag Trade, known for downing tools at the drop of a hat. This connection with left-wing causes in her professional life echoed her personal beliefs. She was highly politically active and a campaigner for the Anti-Nazi League, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Soviet Jewry, as well as serving as a member of council for the actors union Equity.
Her stage roles ranged from Shaw, Chekhov and Brecht to Coward, Ayckbourn and suburban pantomime. She spent a year at the Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing in The Witch of Edmonton and both parts of Henry IV. In 1970 she played the ‘Cat Lady’ in A Clockwork Orange, despite being allergic to cats and having to undergo hypnotherapy to overcome her resulting phobia.
This portrait was completed for the Ben Yuri Gallery exhibition focusing on Jewish cultural figures.



Portrait of Rosa Luxembourg
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Schwarz, Hans
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Rosa Luxemburg was a Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and revolutionary socialist. Born in 1871 in Poland of Jewish descent, she fled to Germany in 1889 when her revolutionary agitation made it dangerous to remain in Poland and she eventually became a naturalised German citizen.
She was a founding member of the underground Spartacus League, which demonstrated against German involvement in the First World War and especially the support given by the Social Democrat Party, an organisation she belonged to. As part of a group of radicals who had belonged to the Spartacus League, she helped establish the German Communist Party in December 1918.
The immediate post-war years, before the establishment of the Weimar Republic, were a dangerous time in Berlin. Violent paramilitary groups like the Freikorps were employed to put down the left-wing uprisings that erupted in major cities across Germany. These uprisings were collectively known as the German Revolution and Luxemburg was a major figure within the movement. She was killed in police custody in January 1919.
The photograph on which this is based shows a softer, more open side of Luxemburg than many of her portrait photographs of the same period. Schwarz seems to have been particularly drawn to this revolutionary figure who became a romanticized symbol of Communist revolt.



Portrait of Sara Kestelman
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Schwarz, Hans
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Sara Kestelman is an English actress, teacher and producer. She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1968, but left after gaining her first film role in the now cult sci-fi film, Zardoz (1974) alongside Sean Connery. She subsequently appeared with the company in many other roles, including Lady Macbeth in the 1982 production of Macbeth. She has also acted with the Royal National Theatre and won a Lawrence Olivier award for her role in the Sam Mendes directed revival of Cabaret (1993). Her career has been spent mostly in theatre, with supporting roles on television, radio and film. She teaches acting at Central School of Speech and Drama and runs a film company, BASK Films.
This portrait was completed for the Ben Yuri Gallery exhibition focusing on Jewish cultural figures.



Seated man in cafe
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Schwarz, Hans
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This unknown figure sits in a café observing passers-by. Is he perhaps an artist or writer, making observations on the bustle of life outside? Unlike the solitary figures in the cafés and bars of Edward Hopper’s paintings, this figure seems content in his solitude. Perhaps he isn’t alone? Is he in conversation with someone out of sight? Maybe even Schwarz himself?
The palette picks up on Schwarz’s favourite tones, with the cool colours of the sky and the activity outside suggesting a morning scene. As Schwarz said “Yellow, orange, grey and brown are my friends. Just thinking of them makes me want to paint.”
In part, Schwarz saw all of his paintings as a type of self-portrait. His interest in people’s lives and belief in identifying with his subjects can be seen throughout his work. Perhaps this quiet observer, removed from the activity of outside, yet not separate, appealed to Schwarz’s sense of his role as an artist, to capture and document human life in all its variety.



Self portrait in green
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Schwarz, Hans
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As Schwarz said himself “Colours are not just sensations on the retina, they are feelings and emotions.” He has painted himself in a yellow green palette, green generally being associated with balance and healing. Whatever one chooses to read into colour theory, the painting depicts a more relaxed version of himself than the 1940’s recent émigré portrait in red tones, which can be found in the exhibition case.



Study for portrait of Bruce Kent
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Schwarz, Hans
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Bruce Kent (b. 1929) is a former Catholic priest who went on to become a prominent campaigner for nuclear disarmament and other pacifist movements. Ordained into the Roman Catholic Ministry in 1958, he served as Chaplain at London University amongst other roles before his political campaigning took precedence. He eventually resigned his ministry after being ordered by the Church to cease involvement in the 1987 General Election. He marched in the four day Aldermaston March in 1958 which launched the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and went on to be elected as its General Secretary in 1980 and Chairman in 1987. An outspoken critic of the Trident missile system instigated by Margaret Thatcher, he was also prominent in other aspects of peace campaigning. He was President of the International Peace Bureau (1985-92) and the National Peace Council (1999-2000).
The resulting oil portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery. Schwarz had asked to paint him and did so in three sittings carried out in Kent’s flat.