by Margaret Brown, Volunteer Guide
Michael Andrews, Thames Painting, The Estuary, 1994-5, Oil and mixed media on canvas Pallant House Gallery (Wilson Gift through The Art Fund, 2006) © The Estate of Michael Andrews, courtesy of James Hyman Gallery, London
Whenever I look at Michael Andrew's 'The Estuary' by Michael Andrews (1928 - 1995) my feelings are similar to those I experience when I listen to a slow movement by Mozart. I am moved by a profound sadness which, somehow, is both comforting and calming. The world appears a more meaningful place.
This is his last work. He was terminally ill and, as he painted 'The Estuary', he knew he was dying. The use of aerial perspective is curious for such flat area; it seems as though one is looking down from a height. Is the artist looking down on his life? Perhaps the small distant bowler-hatted figure, with his back to us on the jetty and the ghost-like figure beside him, represent the artist himself. He is looking out over the luminous sea, which stretches to the edge of the canvas. Is he contemplating infinity?
This is a large mixed-media painting, mostly oil paint in fluid washes on canvas, with sand flung onto one area for texture. The very small distant figures on the jetty and another little group fishing near them give scale and significance to the work.
Andrews was the son of strict Methodist parents. At the Slade School of Art in the 1950s he was the star pupil of William Coldstream, an aesthetically puritan master. Always a figurative painter, Andrews struggled with the problems of all modern artists who want to embrace and build on the traditions of European art without embracing the deadening clichés of that tradition.
As a Zen Buddhist Andrews made negation of self one of his themes, so he might have approved of his relatively limited reputation as a painter during his lifetime. Since his death he has received increasing recognition for the truly great artist he is.