With its swirling blue sky, pink peeling buildings and sluggish waters, Alistair Grant’s Canal Scene brings the modern-day Viennese waterways to life with painterly gusto.
After graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1951, Grant returned to the school in ‘55 as a tutor in the printmaking department. A highly-skilled practitioner with an experimental streak, frequently combining multiple graphic processes in the same work, he taught generations of young artists over his 35 years in the department, of which he later became Head, until his retirement in 1990.
Though he was known by most for his extraordinary teaching record, he regularly exhibited paintings too at the Royal Academy, and as en elected member of the London Group and the Royal Society of British Artists.
Painted in the mid-1960s, Canal Scene represents Grant on the very cusp of his transition to the abstract, having worked predominantly with figurative subjects in the preceding post-war years. While his tumultuous sky and slow-rolling river owe an obvious debt to Van Gogh’s Starry Night and the late works of Monet, in the simplified waterfront buildings and their blurred windows and walls Grant was moving closer and closer towards the colour-form abstraction that would define the latter half of his career.
An artist whose work has often been overshadowed by his immense contribution to education, the strength of Grant’s painting demonstrates a reputation deserving of reevaluation.