Michael Andrews (1928-1995), The Lord Mayor’s Reception in Norwich Castle Keep, On the Eve of the Installation of the First Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, 1966-1969, Oil and silkscreen on turaphot linen on canvas, 213.3 x 213.3 cm, Norwich Castle Museum and Gallery.
Whilst queues lengthened and crowds thronged at the National Portrait Gallery’s Freud exhibition, tucked away on New Bond Street the Haunch of Venison offered the chance (free of charge) to see the works of some of the most celebrated British artists of the 20th century. The exhibition – Conversations Between Ten British Post-War Painters – featured Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Patrick Caulfield, William Coldstream, Lucian Freud, Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Leon Kossoff and Euan Uglow – with works that hadn’t been on public display for decades.
Perhaps I’m biased – my Norfolk connections always shine through eventually (usually by lengthening my vowels) – but this painting by Michael Andrew, for me, was the show stopper. Unfortunately, like the work of the Norfolk School, this painting is hidden from the public at large inside Norwich Castle. However, Michael Andrews would possibly welcome this – as David Cohen suggests: ‘negation of ego was one of his themes.’ Cohen’s assertion can easily be applied to this work, and possibly accounts to why it is so captivating. Despite being the setting for the special day of two men, there is a satirical edge to the sartorial splendour on offer – nobody in the painting is afforded centre-stage. Instead, Andrews observes the quirks and charms of everybody assembled, lovingly, and with equal measure.
For all my waffling, Frank Auerbach said it best: ‘Mike does these things that at first look like old railway travel posters, but when you really look at them they are just truly beautiful pictures.’ For an even closer look at this painting, I urge you to look at Design Inspiration’s article, who picks out some of the individuals within the scene. TA