Art: Bryan Senior’s Primrose Hill Junction paintings mark long-awaited return

Path with Anglers, late 1961, by Bryan Senior

Path with Anglers, late 1961, by Bryan Senior - Credit: Archant

The ex-Hampstead resident has enjoyed a rich career painting what he knows, says Alison Oldham.

Bryan Senior, who is 80 this month, lived in Hampstead from 1957 to 1985 and painted close to home. Artefacts displayed at his locally-oriented retrospective at Burgh House, Hampstead include a list of his addresses, including the storeys he inhabited in some houses.

Senior studied briefly at Chelsea School of Art and continued to paint whilst reading Modern Languages at Cambridge. His early work showed him to be in sympathy with the “kitchen sink” group of painters of interiors, employing heavy impasto to create highly textured paint surfaces.

But in this exhibition, London Paintings from Six Decades, the emphasis is on exterior scenes – mostly of green spaces and streets – and the sole impasto painting is Primrose Hill Junction, a dramatic study of railway lines made in 1958.

It was a choice of subject which echoes his paintings of industrial environments in his home town of Bolton. But soon after moving to Hampstead, Senior’s interest turned to depicting the woodlands and ponds of the Heath in a freer way and with a lighter palette, as in Path with Anglers, (pictured)

By the late 60s Senior inclined towards using near monochromatic oil paint applied so thinly that it could be mistaken for watercolour. Tighter compositions featured buildings and pedestrians. His 1981 painting Midland Passage NW6 is a nostalgic evocation of a backstreet.

Senior, who now lives in Tunbridge Wells, has continued to paint people, places and things he knows, remaining faithful to realism. He believes painting provides him with “a vital link with the visible and the tangible world – the only one to which I feel we can honestly relate.”

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After years of neglect Senior was rediscovered by Dr Denys J Wilcox of the Court Gallery. Two years ago Wilcox gave Senior his first London show in 22 years. Now he is back at Burgh House until June 28 after a 27-year absence with an engaging exhibition of thoughtful paintings.

Until June 28 at Burgh House, New End Square NW3. Wednesday to Friday & Sunday noon to 5pm.