Trevor Newton. 'Bust and Curtain, Versailles'.
Mixed Media on Paper. 28.5 x 19.5 cms. Framed. £500.
From about the age of seven or eight I have been fascinated by architecture and by drawing in equal measure, and have always felt a need to record what I see on paper. Whenever I am travelling, I have the means of making a sketch on me in the form of a small pad and pen, and when something grabs my attention, out they come. A few lines often suffice to capture what I want and later I transfer these to a larger sheet of paper and begin to add the colour and mood which I feel will most enhance the subject. I like to ‘reconstitute’ my impressions and memories of a building on paper, combining the few bare bones of lines sketched on the spot with a lot of imagination and emotion added in the studio.
My main interest is in the physical act of drawing and I choose my subjects accordingly. A preference for bold gestures and for conveying powerful contrasts of light and movement draw me to the architecture of the Baroque. I like the tops of buildings: statues on parapets; towers; pinnacles - very Freudian, no doubt, or possibly a result of having been brought up in Liverpool with its imposing, lofty palaces of commerce and its gargantuan cathedrals. When I was a teenager, my family lived in a large, Charles Addams type, 19th century merchant’s house; Gothic gateway, tower, steeply pitched roofs, bristling ironwork, carved touches of Pugin and Ruskin. It had a great and abiding effect on me.
My aim in any drawing is to make a sort of icon of a building; an idealised version of how I would like it to be. Buildings when seen in reality can often disappoint us; they seem smaller than we had imagined, perhaps, or the light and weather are all wrong and we can’t enjoy them as we would wish. In a drawing one can exaggerate size and magnificence, bringing in whatever effects of weather, light and shade one feels are best suited to a building. One can treat a building in a theatrical way, putting it centre stage, removing the inappropriate bollard and the visually inconvenient hamburger stall. That’s why I like the 18th century manner of painting buildings, with its framing devices of swags, urns and gesticulating onlookers, all drawing the eye to the main event, the building itself.
The pen is the literal basis of my work. I don’t make any preliminary pencil outlines but start straight out, working rapidly in ink, overlaying the initial drawing with vigorous, often violent effects involving wax crayon, watercolour, gouache and washes of dark Chinese and other inks. My drawings tend to be relatively small - but this is part of the effect; I like the idea and the challenge of conveying my impression of the grandeur of a vast façade or interior on a thin, light, portable piece of paper.
I’m not interested in producing a finicky, exact, clear copy of the lines of a building; any decent picture postcard photograph will provide that. My drawings are attempts to convey the emotions generated by architecture. I’m not trying to show what a building looks like; I’m more interested in showing what it feels like to me.
TREVOR NEWTON was born in Lancashire, England in 1959. He studied History of Art at Cambridge University and later became the first full-time teacher of the subject at Eton College. His work has been commissioned, exhibited and sold by Christie’s, published by the Oxford University Press and has appeared in publications as diverse as Country Life, Harpers & Queen, The Independent on Sunday, The Literary Review and The Bookplate Collector’s Quarterly.
In January 2004 Trevor Newton was commissioned by Christie’s to provide a series of watercolour drawings to decorate a catalogue for a major antiques auction at their South Kensington salerooms.
One of the drawings was used for the cover of the catalogue and the entire collection was later exhibited by the auctioneers at a special evening reception. The drawings then formed part of the ensuing sale. All were sold. Trevor Newton was the first artist to have his work commissioned and used in this manner by Christie’s.