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Leonard Rosoman: Painting Theatre

[ Exhibition )

A stage filled with actors dressed in drag, dancing, talking and kissing.

Leonard Rosoman, The Drag Ball, No. 2, 1967-8 Courtesy of Roxanne Rosoman, Photography Dawkins Colour / John Bodkin © The Artist’s Estate

How can art capture the experience of the theatre?

View John Osborne’s controversial 1965 play ‘A Patriot for Me’ through the eyes of British painter Leonard Rosoman RA.

Celebrating the artist’s post-war narrative paintings and in particular sixteen works from an extraordinary series which conveyed the ‘claustrophobic, sometimes savage atmosphere’ of Osborne’s play.

‘A Patriot for Me’ told the true story of the disgraced Austro-Hungarian army officer Colonel Redl. Its exploration of gay life drew the ire of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office and it was initially banned from performance. However, a legal loophole was exploited which enabled the play to be performed at the Royal Court in 1965.

Leonard Rosoman attended the first performance and found it to be such a transformative experience that he returned every night for a week to create drawings by torchlight.

Three years later, Rosoman returned to his sketches to create a stunning series of large scale works. Rather than slavishly recreating scenes from the play, Rosoman created his own painterly response to the same material and themes that Osborne addressed as a writer.

Critical response to the paintings at the time of their creation was muted. They were exhibited in New York and London and apart from a small showing at the Fine Art Society in 1974, they were not seen in public again until this exhibition.

Curated by Dr Tanya Harrod as part of RA250, a nationwide programme celebrating the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Highlights of the exhibition

A stage filled with actors dressed in drag, dancing, talking and kissing.

Leonard Rosoman, The Drag Ball, No. 2, 1967-8

Leonard Rosoman, The Drag Ball, No. 2, 1967-8 Courtesy of Roxanne Rosoman, Photography Dawkins Colour / John Bodkin © The Artist’s Estate

A crowded stage filled with actors in elaborate drag and other costumes. A purple curtain obscures the top half of the stage.

Leonard Rosoman, The Drag Ball, No. 1, 1967-8

Courtesy of Roxanne Rosoman, Photography Dawkins Colour / John Bodkin © The Artist’s Estate

Painting by Leonard Rosoman depicting a man dressed in drag standing beneath a candelabra. The top of the painting is slightly obscured by a stage curtain

Leonard Rosoman, Portrait with Candelabra: George Devine as Baron von Epp, 1968

Courtesy of Roxanne Rosoman, Photography Dawkins Colour / John Bodkin © The Artist’s Estate

Painting by Leonard Rosoman depicting a man in military uniform rising out of a chair to rest his arms on a table. At the ehad of the table sits a man also in military uniform and a monocle. Behind them a map of eastern Europe fades into a green background.

Leonard Rosoman, The Promotion No. 2, 1968

Leonard Rosoman, The Promotion No. 2, 1968, Collection of John Barber and John Nolan © The Artist’s Estate

Painting by Leonard Rosoman depicting a stage set with a man slumped in a chair next to another chair with a suit draped over it.

Leonard Rosoman, Maximilian Schell as Redl, 1968

With kind permission of Arvon © The Artist’s Estate

Want to know more?

If you’re conducting research into this artist or another of Modern British art, please contact Sarah Norris, Collections Manager on s.norris@pallant.org.uk.

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