Hans Schwarz: The Greenwich Years

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Hans Schwarz: The Greenwich Years

  • 1 Oct 2015 — 1 Nov 2015

Although the wartime émigré’s early life in Britain (during the 1940s) had been spent in the Birmingham area, followed by spells living in Wimbledon and Hampstead it was the 33-year period based in Greenwich that proved the most significant in his prolific and successful career. It was whilst in Greenwich he produced many notable portraits including ‘trade Unionists’, a group portrait of Joe Gormley and Tom Jackson in Trafalgar Square, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in 1984.

Other illustrious portraits include those of The Queen Mother, which the sitter admired, Nikolaus Pevsner, Janet Suzman and poet performer Ivor Cutler, each produced during the productive Greenwich years.

The warm anecdotalism of Schwarz’s portraiture hoisted character and incidental environment above all else. A truly cultured Renaissance man, Schwarz was a sculptor, illustrator and author as well as painter.

A powerful draughtsman, he also had a natural way with colour which was mid European and Bonnardesque in quality. Greenwich recurred as a background though he also depicted the Georgian splendor head on. He produced ambitious panoramas of the town, the Isle of Dogs, Canary Wharf and the east London skyline in general from the privileged vantage point of his home and studio on Point Hill. Like his portraiture these architectural urban vistas were never coldly analytical but rather steeped in the artist’s characteristic poetic vision and sensual paint handling.

Always socially engaging, Schwarz was an active member of key artistic societies, notably the Royal Watercolour Society, the New English Art Club and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters . His wife Lena ran a popular Antique shop on the Blackheath Road in Greenwich. Schwarz maintained an interest also in rural landscape, particularly that of west Somerset where he and Lena kept a holiday home from 1964 onwards.

Hans Schwarz

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