Ivon Wells

  • Title: Self Portrait
  • Medium: Oil on board
  • Width: 50cm 19 3/4in
  • Height: 59cm 23 1/4in
  • Year of creation: c. 1953
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It can be seen as an intriguing ‘period’ piece, a record of the day-to-day appearance of a sensitive art student in beret, fisherman-style jumper and round metal or horn-rimmed glasses. This dark picture’s golden glow perhaps shows a preoccupation with Old Master techniques and effects, even a suggestion of the inner light of illumination.

It has not been possible to discover anything about Ivon Wells. There is no surviving correspondence between Ruth Borchard and the artist. All that we know is that Ruth bought his self-portrait in August 1963 for eight guineas. ‘8gns’ is the kind of price Ruth would have paid for an art student’s work at that time. It can be seen as an intriguing ‘period’ piece, a record of the day-to-day appearance of a sensitive art student in beret, fisherman-style jumper and round metal or horn-rimmed glasses. This dark picture’s golden glow perhaps shows a preoccupation with Old Master techniques and effects, even a suggestion of the inner light of illumination.

It is interesting to compare this picture with Denton Welch’s 1942 Self-Portrait (reproduced on the cover of Michael de-la-Noy’s biography of the painter/writer). Both evidence a similar kind of repose, a rather dun palette (influenced not only by Sickert but also perhaps by the look of uncleaned Old Master pictures), a highly painterly handling of features and clothes. Welch’s engaging self-portrait is more fluidly painted, but both prominently display the marks of a traditional English art school education of a kind that Wells’s picture shows persisted, in some quarters, even until the early 1960s.