West Hidden Paintings


Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen uncovers the story behind David Inshaw's The Badminton Game, which once hung at 10 Downing Street but now languishes in a vault, hidden from the public.

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This is the story of a painting. A painting that once hung in the


Prime Minister's official rooms at Number 10 Downing Street. But it is


also the story of how,you and me, the people that actually paid for


the picture, have rarely had a chance to see it, to enjoy it. The


Badminton Game helped to launch the career of Wiltshire artist David


Inshaw. However, after John Major's government disappeared, so did the


painting. It was packed off to a storage vault and it has scarcely


been seen since. In fact, it is one of thousands of paintings - art


work owned by the public - but I am surrounded by beautiful art,


all of it publicly owned. But all of it kept hidden away here in a


secret vault. I cannot help but feel sad. Yes, these paintings are


beautifully looked after but they do not feel terribly loved. And the


point of art is to be seen. It is reckoned that across the country


there are something like 200,000 paintings in public ownership.


Incredibly, more than 80% of that vast collection is actually not on


display. In this programme, I am tracing the story of just one of


those paintings. And the young artist who created it while he was


an art teacher in Bristol. In the 1960s and Seventies, Bristol had an


incredibly vibrant, artistic and cultural community, which revolved


around the foundation of the Arnolfini Gallery. The gallery had


an energetic attitude of bringing big institutional art names here to


the West, to a completely new audience. This was also a matched


with an incredibly exciting commitment to sniffing out young


fresh talent. And providing unknown artists with an appropriate stage


on which to exhibit their work. David Inshaw taught printmaking at


West of England College of Art. Like many others, he dreamed of


success and of the freedom it could bring. His work began to attract


interest from many quarters, including the Arnolfini, where he


became a regular exhibitor. I went to teach in 1966 at Bristol. I was


a student, really. I was still struggling with things I was doing


as a student. I had not resolved anything. I had been at art school


for seven years and had tried all sorts of approaches. Quite a


variety of approaches. They all fitted together. They all had their


romantic element to them. But when I started teaching, I was still a


student and I was still searching for the beginning, really. In 1969,


we had an exhibition, a big exhibition of Peter Blake's work.


That coincided with David's own first exhibition at Arnolfinin when


most of his work was pop art based. So he hadn't really got going.


Indeed, I was rather dismissive of that first exhibition. David went


to live in Devizes. In many respects, I think he wanted to be


away from everything. He did feel a little alienated on all sides. I


think he felt he was not living up to the London expectations and I


think he was not living up to the Bristol, the more Cornish


expectations, which were more to do with abstract, lyrical work. He was


somewhere in between, I think. David Inshaw's early work might


have been influenced by Pop art, but his style gradually changed.


His first break in 1972 was to sell, to the City Art Gallery in Bristol,


a painting of a young woman standing in a graveyard. When I


bought Our Days Were A Joy And Our Path Through Flowers at the


Arnolfini, sometimes I used to walk around the galleries and I used to


watch the reaction of people to the pictures. I noticed that people


coming into that gallery would go through it fairly fast,


uninterested, not too long looking at the labels rather than the


pictures. But when they came to David's there was a pause. And they


were obviously intrigued. What is happening? What is this girl doing


in a churchyard? David himself said that he wanted it to represent the


spirits of the dead coming through and this young girl, he could not


believe she was such a lovely, vibrant girl. He could never


believe that she would ever perish. That painting was quite quick


because it had to be finished for the exhibition at the Arnolfini.


probably took about two months. I cannot imagine how I could have


done it in two months. I must have worked on it all the time. But that


technique developed over a period of time. It was based on


photography, on observation and it was based on screen printing


because I would screen print and then paint over that. So that kind


of image was arrived at through all those different processes. So it


has that sort of moment in time feeling. A snap almost, like a


snapped photograph. The painting was named after a poem by Thomas


Hardy. One of the typically English influences on Inshaw's work, along


with cricket, the countryside and the music of Edward Elgar, with


whom his great grandfather had been at school. I was fascinated by it.


I think I was more fascinated by the public's response to it which


was extraordinary. I think most people who were not familiar with


the Thomas Hardy poem, they were genuinely responding to what they


saw and being very moved by it. this is where I was expecting to


see the painting, where it has been for the last four decades, in the


City Art Gallery. But as luck would have it, a few short months ago, it


was removed from display and taken to the museum's storage vault to


make room for another hang. So there we are, yet another hidden


painting. Bristol Museum is a different place altogether. I feel


a sense of belonging to Bristol. It's a town I've always loved very


much. I was really pleased when they bought it. It has done the job


while it has been there for nearly 40 years. The fact that they have


taken it down has upset me. It was like my toe hold in the art world.


It's again like one's been slightly airbrushed out of things. It is


part of the collection, it's a permanent part of the collection.


They keep other parts of the collection up, and I think it


fitted very well into that room. I think it looked wonderful in that


room. I was very proud of it. So I was upset. And the fact that people


did respond to it and still do they still find something in it, it


gives them help and a feeling of belonging to something, I think it


is sad that it has been removed. I love the work. I think it is a


marvellous work. I really admire that sort of romantic sensibility


and the way that he paints nature is fantastic. It will come back on


display at some point. I am very happy with the work that we have


hung in its place, which is a new acquisition by Megan Davies and it


has been waiting to go on display. As I say, this gallery, it moves


around. The works in it move around. So we will see David Inshaw again


at some point. There will be one or two letters been written asking


about it. It will certainly come back again. Since I bought it, in


1972 I think, it must have been on view for three quarters of the time.


So it is not a bad record. At least, we the public, who ultimately had


paid for the painting, had an opportunity to get to know the


painting through its long years of display here. But the next work


that David Inshaw created was to change his career for good and had


an extremely chequered history. Inshaw was in love with both the


young women who are the focus of this picture. In fact, it is fair


to say women have always played a significant part in his life and


work. I think we got the dresses especially for the painting. The


colours that we chose. We got the dresses from Biba and the shoes


from Anello & Davide. So it was what was contemporary at the time.


People have said it has a Victorian quality, but that was because Biba


had that sort of Victorian edge to it. One of the subjects of the


Badminton Game, Gillian Pollard, was a student at the Bristol Art


College where he was teaching. But by the time the painting was


finished, they would have split up. Partly over the other girl, but


also because Gillian wanted to give up being Inshaw's muse and


concentrate on her own art. To be quite honest, I had never played


badminton before. I had played tennis. Well, not properly. In fact,


I still cannot play badminton properly. Sorry, you're one of the


most famous badminton players in the history of art, and yet you


can't do it! But we were having great fun. The thing I knew about


was dancing. We were wearing dancing shoes. I was wearing a


dress more suitable for dancing, and so was my partner. And if


anything, we were more dancing there than playing a game of


badminton. Who is the other girl in the picture? There is you and who


is the other lovely? I actually met the other girl in the picture as a


waitress at Floyd's. That is how we came to meet. We had this very good


friendship. So when I got to the point where I thought I just cannot


do any more modelling for David, I just can't go on spending all this


time with him. I had to get on with my own work. I naturally thought, a


good model that would help would be my friend. I did suggest that to


him. This is the first time, really, when he took the photographs, he


met her. I was having a relationship with the two women. It


was more complicated than that as well. I was driving backwards and


forwards to Bristol to teach. You know, my whole life was in this


turbulent, chaotic state. I always remember the day when I was


supposed to meet him in Bath in front of the cathedral. I got on my


bus, got to here, and I walked across towards the cathedral. It


was not just David there. It was also my friend. I knew that the


only way she could have got there first thing in the morning was to


come via David. So that was the first realisation that there was


something going on. The fact that we were all involved in that


painting, I suppose is something that we will always remember. It is


nice that, you know, Gill went to Australia for a long time, but she


came back and we renewed our friendship. Things had happened.


But I did not know that was going to happen. I do not think I would


keep in touch with people. But it is lovely that it renews itself.


the 1970s, David Inshaw cut a romantic figure. He was associated


for a while with a group of artists based in the West of England who


called themselves the Brotherhood of Ruralists. They included Peter


Blake, the grand old man of British Pop Art who had famously designed


the cover of The Beatle's album Sergeant Pepper. The ruralists saw


themselves as kindred spirits, rather like the Pre-Raphaelites of


the 19th century. They're quite disparate, the group of friends


they came together. They came together for different reasons.


Obviously, ruralist aspect, the landscape was one of them. And


their own enthusiasm for a particular periods of English


painting, and so forth. So they had that in common. But crucially it


was the aspect of friendship and the actual fun of recreating the


Brotherhood of Ruralists and a reflection of the PRP that had gone


wrong before. The general public seemed to be very sympathetic to


what we were trying to do. We has some very successful exhibitions.


In the last exhibiton we had, that was an Arts Council exhibition,


which started at the Arnolfini, went to Birmingham, then went to


Glasgow and London. It was a travelling show and it was really


successful. Everyone loved it. ruralists were really the end of a


great tradition. I mean, beginning with William Blake, going through


to Samuel Palmer, going through to the early Paul Nash, and Graham


Sutherland. I mean, these artist still kept, I am sorry to use it


again, the romantic sensibility. The ruralists was a nice episode.


It was good to have friends you could socialise with, and talk


about things with. But after about four years, I began to think it was


a trap. Things were not moving at all. They were more interested in


illustration. I just did not feel it was me any more. So I kind of


left. But the others went on doing it and I think they have been


trapped in their own success in a funny sort of way. I do not think


it was important at all as a group. They were not the Newlyn School or


St Ives. It was a group of artists coming together. It was


individually important to them or, and particularly to David, whose


work was to develop, perhaps more than any of the other artists after


that period. But I do not think you can call it a movement of


significance to British art as a whole, no. Looking at Inshaw's


paintings from the Seventies you will find similar trees, fields and


gardens, all filled with similar figures, usually women. They all


combine to seduce the eye and lift the spirit. The most significant


work from the period was the Badminton Game. Like many others,


it was a cocktail of different places and elements brought


together to create an atmosphere. It is a landscape that speaks of


the past, but it's an imaginary one that has been reassembled to


express values that are timeless. I would expect that you would expect


me to be standing in front of the picture by now. To be describing it


to you in detail, to be encouraging you to see it in the flesh. Because


it is only when you see a picture for real that you get that sense of


presence, that sense of scale you simply cannot get from seeing it as


a reproduction in a book. I always think it is like the difference of


seeing a film on television as opposed to seeing a film in the


cinema. But it is not going to be possible. Let me tell you why. The


work attracted considerable attention and was featured across


the centrefold of the Sunday Times magazine. The exposure brought


enough inquiries to keep David Inshaw busy for 20 years and


allowed him to give up teaching. The Badminton Game was then bought


by the Tate to add to its prestigious national collection.


And David Inshaw's status was assured. His career moved on to


another level. Those paintings that I did at the time - in the 1970s


and right up through to the Eighties - they were composed, they


were invented, they came out of my imagination, I suppose. The trees


in the painting came from the trees I could see from the little room


that I was painting in. I used to use a pair of binoculars to look at


the trees. There was an acacia tree, a monkey puzzle tree, and I could


see them through the window, and I put them in a painting by looking


at them through the binoculars. house is extraordinary. Houses


often have faces, but that one really, really does have a face.


This girl, Christine Butler, who lived in Evesham, they lived in


amongst a sort of Victorian industrial complex. And either side


were these Victorian red-brick warehouses with high cupolas on top.


I obviously imagined them more mysterious than they are. I took


photographs of them later and they were not quite as like that. But


they were the basis for the painting. It is a long time ago.


There is no way I could go back to painting like that. It was almost a


different person from where I am now. It is a struggle that goes on.


IN fact, the struggle is harder because you have to keep moving.


You have done so much, you used so many ideas and you are still


searching for the one thing that is going to matter more than the


Badminton Game did. Inshaw's career was on fire. The Arts Council


bought one of his works, a piece called The Window, and private


clients formed an orderly queue to buy his paintings. But life got


even sweeter when Prime Minister John Major selected the Badminton


Game to hang in Number 10 Downing Street. I have never met John Major


so had no idea what he thought when he saw it. But apparently, he used


to go round the National Gallery and the Tate after a day's work. He


would take his detectives off and then go round and look at the


paintings. He must have seen it and thought, why don't we have that?


suspect it was relatively personal seal of approval from John Major. I


hope it would reflect that he was the Prime Minister of Great Britain


and this was a thoroughly English painting. And proud to be so.


with a friend at Covent Garden and we had a drink at the interval.


This woman from the Tate came and said, we've just hung your painting


in Downing Street. I did not know who she was. I thought, really?


That's weird. She said that John Major had chosen it. This was not


the only time an Inshaw painting graced a government minister's


office. The Window had been spotted by Arts Minister Hugh Jenkins 20


years earlier following its purchase by the Arts Council. It


hung in his ministerial office for two years and then spent over 20


years on loan to Liverpool University. However, since 2003, it


has been, guess what? Yes, locked away in the storage vaults. Of


course governments come, and Government's go. When the curtain


falls, it is time to get off the stage. In 1997, Tony Blair


inherited the Badminton Game. It stayed at Number 10 for another six


months before it was sent back to the Tate. So, all and good you'd


have thought. A fine piece of art back in the hands of the people,


exhibited for the world to see and to enjoy. But sadly it did not


quite turn out that way. Apart from one brief showing as part of a Tate


exhibition called Art At The Garden, the Badminton Game has remained in


the vaults, apparently unloved but definitely unseen. According to the


Tate, there are no plans to exhibit the painting at present. Now, what


I fail to come to terms with is how come a painting that was once


deemed good enough to grace the most powerful office in the land,


is now languishing unseen in the vaults of the Tate Gallery. I would


like to have asked the director of the Tate, but like his opposite


number at the Arts Council who owns Inshaw's, The Window, he was not


available to be interviewed. think the art's establishment can


be snooty. Sometimes the fact that a work is popular, they somehow


believe therefore that it is inferior because the public like it.


I think that art should be for everybody. I would like to see


those works exhibited. And if the public want to see them, it is a


tragedy that they are then hidden away and they do not have that


opportunity to get out and see them. I am not angry, no. You just shrug.


Do you think that is life? Yes. The last time saw the Badminton Game


was at an exhibition at the Tate based on the garden. I had not seen


it for a long time. I was amazed, because it was almost like I had


not done it. It was so long ago. But it was a very impressive


painting. It was also hanging near Stanley Spencer painting, which is


one of my favourites. It was nice to be hanging in the same room as a


Stanley Spencer. But that was good. But the Tate is the Tate and that


is the way it is run. We discovered that there are actually three


different government art collections. There is the formal


Government art collection, then the Arts Council has one and the


British Council has one. And as you say, quite a lot of those works are


in storage and have been for many years. That seems to be a terrible


waste. We are in a difficult economic time where the money isn't


the large amount to spend on paintings and other works of art,


so there may be the case there that the one or two works that are never


shown, that are never brought out of the basement, might be sold in


order to allow new works to be purchased. The Arts Council told me,


and it's a sentiment the Tate would echo should they ever give me an


interview, that it would be short- sighted and irresponsible to sell


work from the Arts Council Collection. It is the nation's


future legacy and an important record of post-war art. These and


other great institutions own Inshaw's best works but rarely show


them. Making it more difficult for the artist to connect with those


who admire his work. Inshaw continues to paint and although his


style has changed, the influences on his more recent paintings remain


the same as they were 40 years ago in the Badminton Game and Our Days


Were Of Joy, the writings of Thomas Hardy and the landscapes of


Wiltshire and Dorset. However, more recent paintings embrace a new


sense of earthiness and reality. These days, the brushwork is looser


and the images are less obsessive in their attention to detail. There


are those that may say he is no longer fashionable. But in Inshaw's


home town, that does not matter in the way that it might to curators


of cutting-edge London galleries. But it does not have to be like


this. Here in Devizes in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, they


display their David Inshaws with great pride. Using his evocations


of local landscape as a way of introducing an element of the


modern, amongst the or historical displays. The contributions of


local taxpayers' help the museum to fund the acquisition of new art


work and, so they get a chance to see the whole collection, works are


rotated on a regular basis. This way the artist is happy and the


museum's visitors are too. A lot of visitors that we have here and a


lot of our members as well are much more traditional in the kind of


things that they like and the kind of art that they would appreciate


as well. This is the kind of thing you can show to children, you can


show to the older members of society. They also feel that they


can have some way into art as well. So the wonderful thing about David


is that he is so accessible, not just to the modern artist, but also


to younger generations and older generations as well. When I was a


student, I used to go to the Tate. There were not many people there,


but all Stanley Spencer's paintings, all his paintings were on the back


stairs, the whole lot. You had to go and find them. The people who


run the Tate have an agenda and I do not a fit in with that agenda.


It is like being airbrushed out of history in a funny sort of way. I


think their policy is to show a very narrow range of things because


they have this agenda. They are not all-encompassing which I think we


should be. Pictures are changed about. Some aren't seen, some come


view. I'm sure some time in the future, it will come back on show


again. You could say that of any painting. Why isn't so and so on


view? But the collection has to be varied, it has to be large. You


have to be able to draw from your collection so that the public see.


Perhaps paintings like the Badminton Game, publicly-owned but


hidden from public gaze, have simply fallen victim to changes in


fashion in the art world where, apparently to be new and different,


is incredibly important. But shouldn't gallery creators choose


the best and the most exciting work on offer rather than being seduced


solely by the shock of the new? And once chosen, shouldn't those works


then be displayed where they can be seen by those who have paid for


them? This extraordinary James Bond-like environment is the store


of the Tate Gallery. And I am surrounded by probably millions of


pounds worth of art that is rarely seen. But it is one picture in


particular that I am after. And this is it. Finally, I get to meet


Seeing it for real, is actually quite emotional. Because I just was


not in any way prepared for the level of detail. There is almost an


obsessive sense of embroidery. And also, the richness of the palette


of greens. It makes it feel incredibly romantic, very, very


evocative. It is actually as if it is in a fairy-tale. It is like a


Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen uncovers a hidden painting with a remarkable story.

The Badminton Game, by the Wiltshire artist David Inshaw, was once chosen by a prime minister to hang on the walls of 10 Downing Street. But now it languishes in a storage vault, hidden away from the public who helped to pay for it.

The painting is just one of thousands that are publicly owned but not on display. Now, the BBC is helping to digitise the UK's vast collection of paintings, making the artwork available to everyone.

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