Anthony Smith introduces us to an artist whose name, he says, should be on everyone’s lips...
We live in a country with an amazing, deep and significant artistic heritage. Our county too has its share of artists and has been the inspiration to others who have been important both artistically and historically.
This month, I’d like to introduce you to an artist I feel is of such ability that her name should be on everyone’s lips. I was introduced to her by an old friend of mine, David Tattersall (Secret Art Collector), some years back and the memory of her and her art stays with me to this day.
Rather than introduce her immediately, it is of interest to look at her history. Her father, Alan, was a renowned artist and from his time as a student at the Royal College of Art he was mentored by the artist Sir William Rothenstein.
After winning the British Prix de Rome for murals, he spent two years there, returning home determined to live and work as an artist with some part-time teaching at the Royal College of Art. Perhaps today he is best remembered for his archaeological reconstruction drawings of our British heritage.
Her mother, Elizabeth, is regarded as one of the finest watercolourists of her time, a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy and whose work is held by numerous public collections, including The Tate. Her work is, in my opinion, simply exquisite.
Into this world, Julia Sorrell was born and nurtured. She said of her childhood: “As a child, I was always encouraged to draw and I must have picked up some of their ideas.”
My first impression of Julia and her husband Ian was of amazingly generous and hospitable people, warm and embracing. But it was Julia’s art that really touched me.
Here I saw complex, almost mathematical imagery or even an original geometric paisley-like rendering of the Norfolk landscape. Tree trunks, intertwined and complex… sensual, leaves, flowers…erotic as much as elegant. Magical.
I was shown some early works, including a wonderful self-portrait – a questioning and inquisitive young woman with a natural beauty in a simple red jumper against a red background from 1980 – that came second in the first National Portrait Gallery Portrait Award.
Although Julia’s portraits are superb, it is her rendering of the landscape and vegetation that sets her so apart from others for me. Hers is an original, unique vision, one that is undeniably fresh. These are, in my opinion, simply masterworks. Her Trees in
Culford Park (1999) is a perfect example of this as are Desert Rose,
Bulls or Leafscape from 2006. Julia’s recent works take a new direction, focusing on her imagination as well as using the human form as both subject and as part of the landscape. The works are executed with subtle colouring and many show evidence of her thought processes with the retention of what are best described as construction marks. They are sculptural forms as much as painted and her mathematical/geometric style continues through these works.
In my humble opinion, Julia is simply one of the finest artists in this country, not just in our county, today.
ABOVE: The Muse, pencil, pen and ink, watercolour 2013, Julia Sorrell