Throughout his working life, the British painter Euan Uglow (1932–2000) sought to reproduce the experience of reality in his work. A preoccupation easier said than done, he did not rely solely on his eyes but instead used a range of devices and methods try to achieve this.
To gain a firm grip on what he saw, Uglow drew grids and other patterns on the floors and walls of his studio. He stretched thin thread across the space and hung a plumb line from the ceiling. He would even mark his sitters with crosses and dashes to use as reference points. Working in a meticulous manner, many of these measurements can still be seen in his compositions.
The first major retrospective of Uglow's work outside the UK is currently on show at Museum More, Gorssel, the Netherlands, until 1st September 2019. Uglow's self-portrait (part of the Ruth Borchard Collection) is on display alongside a selection of his nudes, portraits, still lifes, landscapes and drawings, providing a unique insight into his obsessive search for visual truth.
In his self-portrait, Uglow seems to have measured up his mirrored image onto the board. Lacking the networks of vestigial lines present in some of his larger works it reveals a sense of urgency. An attempt to detach from self to be able to objectively recreate one's own experience.
The Ruth Borchard Collection of self-portraits was the lifelong project of Ruth Borchard (1910–2000). Brought up as a socialist and a freethinker, she studied economics and social psychology at the University of Hamburg. In 1938, as Jewish refugees, Ruth and her family fled from Germany to Reigate, Surrey.
Ruth's interest in modern painting began at the age of 13, as she recalled: 'With a cheque given to me to buy a refrigerator I bought two early Ruskin Spears.'
In an unpublished essay from around 1968, Ruth asked, 'Why did I begin collecting self-portraits?' it continued '...one day... mounting the stairs in our house, I was struck by the idea that introspection in painting meant: self-portraits. I vividly remember the moment, even the step, where I suddenly saw our landing crowded with paintings, all sizes, types, styles, media. And this is exactly what came to pass... I began to visit the shows of the art schools, the Young Contemporaries [an annual show in London of nationwide student's art] and the small galleries... Carefully I refrained from reading art reviews so as to keep my vision unbiased.'
Her collection, with its eclectic range of works, helps to delineate an entire period of British art. The artists in the Collection reflect the diversity of post-war British society at large and many of the artists achieved critical success.
Roberta Travers, The Ruth Borchard Collection
The Euan Uglow painting is on show at Museum MORE in Gorssel, the Netherlands, from 26th May to 1st September 2019