GEORGE WEISSBORT Still life with onions and a terracotta pot

GEORGE WEISSBORT (1928-2013)

Still life with onions and a terracotta pot       

Watercolour on paper 18.4 x 27cm; s. & d. 2004

Handmade replica of our 1930’s Parisian Artist’s Frame with painted ogee section

Overall framed size 36.8 x 28.6cm

Click on image to view at larger size

Onions, although humble, earthy objects, fascinate painters with their variety of colour and finish – the dry, papery skins; the polished sheen of soft brown, purple or white; the dull twist of the sprout; the tentacular splay of roots. This little watercolour, with its carefully modulated harmony of russet and Vandyke browns, and its casual, frieze-like composition of other humble kitchen objects, is following in the tradition, not only of Chardin’s work, but of Impressionist paintings such as Renoir’s The onions, Gauguin’s Onions & Japanese woodcut, various works by Cézanne, and still life paintings by the master of fish, William Merritt Chase.

Biographical details

George Weissbort (1928-2013) was born in Belgium and moved to London at the age of 7.  He attended the Central School of Art & Design (now St Martin’s) where he was taught by Ruskin Spear and Rodrigo Moynihan. He was influenced by Arthur Segal to move from the abstract expressionism of the 1940s to realism, and by Bernard Meninsky, who taught life drawing at the Central School, to study the Old Masters.  He turned first to artists such as Cézanne and Matisse, and later to Vermeer, Chardin, Velasquez, Corot, Titian, Holbein, and Piero della Francesca, amongst others.

He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Fine Art Society. In 1964-65 he had a large exhibition in Paris, and in 2006 he had a one-man retrospective at the Chambers Gallery, London, followed in 2008 by another at the Denise Yapp Gallery, Whitebrook, Monmouth.

He wrote essays on art and criticism which look both at the techniques of making a painting, and of appreciating a work of art. The latter skill he believed came only after years of consciously training the eye to see as the artist saw, considering for example the ‘negative’ spaces around and between objects. He also discussed the work of specific artists, such as Lucien Freud and Vermeer.

His obituary in The Independent quotes Brian Sewell, a friend, as saying of him that Weissbort ‘painted the right pictures at the wrong time’. His appeal was to those who understood his models and influences; he could be described as a painter’s painter, and the same obituary quotes Paula Rego describing him as ‘a truly honest artist who knows so much about painting’.

Publications: George Weissbort, Paintings and Drawings (Parnassus, 2008), ill. 130 colour plates; includes transcripts of a filmed interview; essays by Tony Rudolph, David Lee and Bernard Dunstan RA.

YouTube video: A tribute to George Weissbort by John French.