Mark Randall, 1921-2011

Mark Randall led a full and rewarding life. Born in Coventry, his initial art education was at Coventry Arts School, shortly before the War where – as in other provincial schools – the training was aimed at fostering practical skills as an illustrator, commercial artist or decorator. From 1941-1946, Randall served in the Royal Navy, settling in London after the War. There, he built up a career in graphic design and advertising.

During his working life, Randall took the opportunity to continue his artistic studies, attending Hornsey College of Art and then the Central School of Arts and Crafts. The former, founded in 1880, matured into the Hornsey College of Arts and Crafts in 1955. The emphasis, in the 1950s, was on studying from the life – and thus acquiring confidence and facility in drawing – and learning, also, from the structured, Non-Objective compositions of artists such as Ben Nicholson, who enjoyed a major retrospective exhibition at the Tate in 1955. The influence of this kind of teaching can still be seen in the work of Ken Howard, a decade younger than Mark Randall, who studied at Hornsey at a similar time (as a full-time student and before he embarked on his National Service). Howard’s fascination for capturing fleeting life and light, conveyed in paintings which are governed by a strong, though lightly-worn, architectonic structure, owe something to Hornsey. Randall, especially in his vivid canvases of equestrian races, reflects a similar preoccupation.

From the 1960s, Randall continued to produce and exhibit his work as an artist. In 1960, he exhibited Red Landscape at the Royal Academy, from his home in Ilford, Essex. In the following years, he showed with the National Society of Painters, Sculptors and Printmakers, the Pastel Society and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI), which regularly held its exhibitions at the Mall Galleries, London. In 1985, at which date Randall was an Associate Member of the ROI, he showed four pictures, Winter Riders, Path through the Forest, Autumn at High Beach and Epping Forest Giant. In that year, Randall was awarded the prestigious Cornelissen[1] Prize for his painting.

In 1986, Mark Randall retired. From that time – as we learn from his obituary[2] – he devoted his time to family and his art. As before, he continued to work in both oil and pastel. He was interested in landscapes and marine scenes, often focusing on images of the East Anglian coast. He also regularly painted in southern Europe, producing high-coloured, sun-drenched impressions of warm summer holidays. Increasingly, however, Randall became preoccupied with movement, especially associated with horse racing and ballet. Inevitably, such subject matter brings to mind the ceaseless fascination of Degas for these themes; but it is Manet’s 1867 Races at Longchamp, which bears a closer relationship with Randall’s equestrian images - his Tight on the Rails, for example. There is a tremendous sense of immediacy, excitement and speed in both these pictures, conveyed by the viewer’s shocking confrontation with horses apparently racing directly out of the canvas, the landscape disappearing into an impression of flashing colour and confusion. Randall’s equestrian pieces represent some of his best and most confident work, where image, painterly touch, composition and colour are all employed in the service of pictures which are infused with energy, light and exhilaration.

Mark Randall died in 2011. He left behind him a rich artistic legacy - the product of a man in love with life.

© Dr. Hilary Taylor, 2012

[1] L. Cornelissen & Son are providers of high quality pigments and other materials to artists.

[2] ‘Mark Randall - brave soldier, great artist. Loving Grandad.’