FELIKS TOPOLSKI R.A. (1907-1989)

The London Spectacle

– An exhibition of drawings from the 1930s –

Starts Midday Saturday 30th November 2013

Topolski was already well known in Warsaw, both as a painter and for his acutely observed pen and ink drawings, when he decided to widen his field with a European tour in 1933. Paris provided him with wonderful subject matter, to which he was to return for the project Paris Lost*, however, he decided, having been contributing drawings to Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and the News Chronicle since March 1935 that his first foreign publication would take the British Capital, scene of George V’s Jubilee, as its subject; The London Spectacle*.

Topolski’s spoken English was as yet halting, however, his eye and pen sped to the heart of the subject. He went all over London. The entrenched class system played right into his hands. No-one escaped! As the critic Dominic Wyndham Lewis pointed out in his Preface ‘The majority of British Cartoonists play for safety and concentrate on those exquisite creatures … the Sheppard young man and the Lewis Baumer girl … whom editors prefer … ’. Not so Topolski. In common with Rowlandson, Daumier and Keene he relished those typical and yet grotesque markers of any heterogeneous society.

The success of The London Spectacle, for which some of these drawings are studies and to which all of them are related, helped decide his choice of London as his new home. His work as a War Artist, his post-war ‘Chronicle’ of the evolving World and his mural scheme ‘Memoir of the Century’ continued, on a bolder and a larger scale, the observational brief one sees in drawings such as these.

* Abbott and Holder – Paris Lost, 2008; Paris in the Thirties, 2012.
* The London Spectacle 1935, John Lane, 1935.

Provenance: All works come from the artist’s estate.