Curator and writer Ian Collins talks to us from Greece where, in lockdown, he has been completing his 'life's work', a biography of British artist John Craxton (1922-2009). Ian knew Craxton well and received the artist's permission at the end of his life to write this book. Here, Ian introduces Craxton's life and work in anticipation of his forthcoming publication and touring exhibition.
John Craxton was a key figure in post-war painting - a brilliant and well-connected artist with a passion for Greek life, light and landscape. Rejected for military service in 1941, he shared premises in London with Lucian Freud, provided by their benefactor and friend Peter Watson. Through Watson he met other artists linked to Neo-romanticism and, like many of his generation, came under the influence of William Blake, Samuel Palmer and Graham Sutherland. But by 1945 his work was more closely connected with that of European artists such as Picasso and Miro. Always longing to escape, Craxton travelled around the Mediterranean after World War II, finally settling in Crete from 1960, where he continued to develop his Romantic pastoral themes in sunburst images influenced by Byzantine mosaics.