Nov 21 2011
Lisa Beauchamp, Curator of Visual Art, on Derrick Greaves’ portrait of industrial Sheffield.
Derrick Greaves’ painting Sheffield (1953) is one of the most celebrated works of Greaves’ early artistic career. Honest, powerful and obviously very personal, the painting really seems to strike a chord with visitors to the Graves Gallery.
Born in Sheffield, Derrick Greaves spent his childhood in Mitchell Road in Woodseats and the city had an enormous impact upon him and the development of his work. This picture shows Sheffield’s industrial landscape, which was familiar sight to him growing up. He said of the inspiration he found in the city "I was... painting what was around me, believing that if you ignored what was at your very elbow, you were in dire peril."
Greaves drew obsessively from the age of five, sketching the landscape and people he saw around him. He studied fine art at Sheffield College of Art and then at the Royal College of Art in London, where he became acquainted with fellow Sheffield-born artists Jack Smith and George Fullard. Greaves painted Sheffield just after he graduated.
The picture shows a derelict factory in the foreground. Only a stark black shell of the building is left, which sets a gloomy atmosphere as it looms over the tall chimneys, terraced streets and climbing hills ofSheffield. Greaves’ palette blacks, browns and greys deftly convey the urban landscape, which is thought to be either Woodseats or Attercliffe. However, though the colours and subject matter may be interpreted as bleak, I think the picture evokes an undeniable sense of warmth and community in its celebration of Sheffield’s industrial heritage.
Image: Derrick Greaves, Sheffield, 1953. Courtesy James Hyman Fine Art, London (detail).