Harold Hope Read

Harold Hope Read was born in Greenwich in 1881 and later lived in Lewisham in London, Brighton, and Tunbridge Wells where he passed away in 1959. During his years in Tunbridge Wells Hope Read lived an avant-garde lifestyle with his live-in housekeeper, life model and mistress, who we know only as Hilda. Here the artist became known as the 'the Bohemian of Tunbridge Wells' and his work is now acknowledged as the precursor of Edward Ardizzone's (1900-1979).

Hope Read’s involvement with his patron, Charles Lambert Rutherston, and fellow artists William Orpen (1878-1931) and Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945) has been credited for inspiring the series of paintings and drawings he titled 'High Life'. In this series Hope Read depicts the wealthy and famous clientele of his colleagues in a lavishly detailed drawing style. Through this style he conveys the opulence of the members of high-society he encountered, including their luxurious costumes and grand interiors.

In our collection of pen and ink and wash drawings by Hope Read we see these themes recurring frequently, often with caricatured figures indicating the artist’s disdain for this grandiose world. Alongside these works in the collection is Rubenesque portraits of plump nudes which he skillfully depicts in small and expressive pen lines, evocative of Ruben’s energetic brushstrokes. Another section of the collection is a series of watercolour landscapes which are executed in an impressionistic, and occasionally pointillistic, style. Hope Read regularly submitted works to the Royal Academy's Annual Exhibition and exhibited works at the Alpine Gallery, the New English Art Club, the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours and the National Society of British Artists. Read also contributed political cartoons to Punch Magazine.

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