Beach Scene, MediterraneanZoom In
Beach Scene, Mediterannean, versoZoom In

Beach Scene, Mediterranean by Leon Underwood

We came across this little oil on panel in an auction house in Birmingham. It is clearly signed, 'Leon U' in the lower right hand corner and the signature appears to be at one with the picture and in Underwood's hand. So far so good. But we have not been able to tie it to a particular place or time.

In style, this could well have been painted in those few years after the Second War, when Underwood seems to have felt somewhat isolated from his Modernist peers. Remaining attached to the figurative world, he was developing a synoptic visual language, simplifying in both line and plane and imposing a dynamic rhythm on his compositions. This painting is, of course, a long way from his 1954 tempera mural, London Parks, for the Shell canteen, St. Swithin's House, in London. But it does represent a parallel interest in composing a diverse and scattered range of people at their play, in a way that communicates something about how the individual becomes part of an anonymous crowd. It also explores - as do many of Underwood's works at this period - how solid and void meld together, warp and weft, each strengthening and enlivening the other.

In this little beach scene, there is a line of limbs - simplified legs, held at different angles - across the foreground; dots and dashes of people, sand and sea are animating the background; the solid repetition of colourful beach umbrellas secures the image to the right hand side; the bathers facing left and the diagonal thrust of towels ensure that the composition is sliding off the left hand side of the picture - a dynamism lent velocity by the drift of pale wriggles of paint leading out of the picture frame. All these characteristics would tend to confirm that this captivating little picture is by Underwood, from the few years just after WWII.

Medium:
Oil on paper on board
Size Unframed:
6½ins x 12½ins
16.5cms x 31.5cms
Size Framed:
10ins x 16ins
25.5cms x 40.5cms
Markings:
Signed 'Leon U', lower right; verso, bears name Leon Underwood(?)
Price:
£1,450