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Glyn Warren Philpot, R.A. (1884-1937)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM KELLY SIMPSON
Glyn Warren Philpot, R.A. (1884-1937)

St Sebastian

Glyn Warren Philpot, R.A. (1884-1937)
St Sebastian
indistinctly inscribed 'ST SEBASTIAN' (on the reverse), with inscription by Gabrielle Cross '"ST SEBASTIAN" BY/GLYN PHILPOT R.A./COLLECTION OF/GABRIELLE CROSS/80 LADBROKE ROAD. W11.' (on a label attached to the stretcher)
oil on canvas
36 x 28½ in. (91.5 x 72.4 cm.)
Painted in 1932.
Gabrielle Cross, the artist's niece.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 5 April 2000, lot 74, where purchased by the present owner.
D. Philpot, Manuscript catalogue of paintings by Glyn Philpot, c. 1938-57, p. 76.
Exhibition catalogue, Glyn Philpot 1884-1937: Edwardian Aesthete to Thirties Modernist, London, National Portrait Gallery, 1984, pp. 72, 77, no. 50, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Glyn Philpot RA: paintings, drawings and sculptures from the Estate of Gabrielle Cross, London, Fine Art Society, 1997, pp. 12, 24, 49, no. 13, illustrated.
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, Glyn Philpot R.A., 1884-1937; a commemorative exhibition, September - November 1976, no. 27.
London, National Portrait Gallery, Glyn Philpot 1884-1937: Edwardian Aesthete to Thirties Modernist, November 1984 - February 1985, no. 50.
London, Fine Art Society, Glyn Philpot RA: paintings, drawings and sculptures from the Estate of Gabrielle Cross, November 1997 - January 1998, no. 13: this exhibition travelled to Chichester, Pallant House Gallery, February - March 1998.
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Pippa Jacomb
Pippa Jacomb

Lot Essay

A particularly personal and emotional work, St Sebastian forms a part of a collection of religious paintings by Glyn Philpot following his conversion to Catholicism. Philpot’s appointment as President of the Guild of Catholic Artists and Craftsmen in 1929 led to an output of traditionally painted spiritual and evangelistic works for churches and Guild exhibitions, alongside his greatly popular portraiture in the style of artists such as John Singer Sargent and Diego Velázquez. Despite his successes, in the era of The Great Depression and a rise in political awareness, Philpot’s frustration with a decorative portraiture style began to show. Moving to Paris in 1930 and with new stimulus from Parisian and Berlin nightlife scenes, Philpot instead created work highlighting his own interests, ranging from societal scenes to the mystical. While he estranged much of his previous support in London, today the paintings Philpot produced before his sudden death in 1937 are considered his most progressive and successful body of work.

Created during this stylistic turning point, the present work provides a sensitive yet ambiguous depiction of the saint. Dominating the canvas in a tightly cropped composition, Sebastian, martyred for his religion during the Roman Empire’s persecution of Christianity, is portrayed bound by his arms. His body is struck by arrows penetrating his chest, emerging from both sides of the canvas to dramatically lead the eye up to the figure’s torso. Resting upon his shoulder, the profile of the subject masked in shadow carries a delicate serenity, while a raised open hand tenderly reaches to touch his chest. The other hand falls towards a symbolic white lily (signifying resurrection in Christianity), representing Sebastian’s survival of this death sentence.

Inspired by modern painters such as Picasso and George Grosz, Philpot paints his subject with a simplification of line and colour, in comparison to the neo-classical accounts that he would have no doubt been aware of. Classical academic compositions and chiaroscuro techniques are replaced by stylised proportions and thin layers of colour. These illuminate the figure in an ethereal light and soft shadow, while the skin glows with a Surrealist quality as rich yellow tones of an ambiguous halo reflect across the body, alongside pale blue and blacks from the abstracted walls of Philpot’s Paris studio. The figure bears similar features to Karl Heinz-Müller, known to have sat for Philpot on multiple occasions, namely Oedipus (1931) and Fugue (1931-32). His missing fingertips on one hand are immediately recognisable, and seen within the present painting.

Often referred to as a particularly sexualised subject, Sebastian’s beauty and provocatively exposed body is frequently explored within art and literature. The Baroque artist Guido Reni for instance, is celebrated for creating several versions of the infamous scene in this manner during his career. This incredibly soulful and sensual depiction of Heinz-Müller as Sebastian has therefore been considered as both a visibly suggestive exploration of both the male nude and Philpot’s personal relationship with his friend and muse. The painting remained hidden from view in Philpot’s studio and was never exhibited nor shown to family during the artist’s lifetime.

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