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West

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

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

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

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

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Badminton Game helped to launch the career of Wiltshire artist David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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incredibly vibrant, artistic and cultural community, which revolved

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around the foundation of the Arnolfini Gallery. The gallery had

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an energetic attitude of bringing big institutional art names here to

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

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with an incredibly exciting commitment to sniffing out young

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fresh talent. And providing unknown artists with an appropriate stage

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

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

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

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interest from many quarters, including the Arnolfini, where he

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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coming into that gallery would go through it fairly fast,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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photography, on observation and it was based on screen printing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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marvellous work. I really admire that sort of romantic sensibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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called themselves the Brotherhood of Ruralists. They included Peter

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

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

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

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

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they came together. They came together for different reasons.

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

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their own enthusiasm for a particular periods of English

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:14:37.:14:47.
:14:47.:14:51.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:15:34.:15:41.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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it was a cocktail of different places and elements brought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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work attracted considerable attention and was featured across

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the centrefold of the Sunday Times magazine. The exposure brought

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enough inquiries to keep David Inshaw busy for 20 years and

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

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by the Tate to add to its prestigious national collection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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at them through the binoculars. house is extraordinary. Houses

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

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

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amongst a sort of Victorian industrial complex. And either side

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

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

:18:12.:18:17.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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even sweeter when Prime Minister John Major selected the Badminton

:18:57.:19:04.

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

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

:19:08.:19:11.

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

:19:11.:19:15.

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

:19:15.:19:22.

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

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

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

:19:28.:19:35.

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

:19:35.:19:39.

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

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

:19:42.:19:46.

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

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

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

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

:19:57.:20:02.

years earlier following its purchase by the Arts Council. It

:20:02.:20:05.

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

:20:05.:20:11.

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

:20:11.:20:19.

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

:20:19.:20:23.

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

:20:23.:20:32.

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

:20:32.:20:38.

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

:20:38.:20:48.
:20:48.:20:49.

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

:20:49.:20:53.

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

:20:53.:20:56.

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

:20:56.:21:04.

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

:21:04.:21:07.

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

:21:07.:21:14.

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

:21:14.:21:19.

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

:21:19.:21:23.

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

:21:23.:21:26.

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

:21:26.:21:31.

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

:21:31.:21:34.

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

:21:34.:21:38.

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

:21:38.:21:45.

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

:21:45.:21:49.

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

:21:49.:21:53.

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

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

:21:57.:22:01.

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

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

:22:04.:22:11.

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

:22:11.:22:16.

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

:22:16.:22:20.

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

:22:20.:22:23.

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

:22:24.:22:28.

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

:22:28.:22:32.

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

:22:32.:22:37.

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

:22:37.:22:40.

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

:22:40.:22:45.

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

:22:45.:22:47.

different government art collections. There is the formal

:22:47.:22:49.

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

:22:49.:22:53.

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

:22:53.:22:57.

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

:22:57.:23:00.

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

:23:00.:23:03.

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

:23:03.:23:07.

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

:23:07.:23:10.

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

:23:10.:23:13.

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

:23:13.:23:17.

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

:23:17.:23:19.

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

:23:20.:23:28.

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

:23:28.:23:36.

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

:23:36.:23:38.

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

:23:39.:23:44.

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

:23:44.:23:48.

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

:23:48.:23:51.

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

:23:51.:23:54.

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

:23:54.:23:57.

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

:23:57.:24:05.

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

:24:05.:24:09.

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

:24:09.:24:15.

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

:24:15.:24:19.

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

:24:19.:24:22.

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

:24:22.:24:30.

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

:24:30.:24:32.

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

:24:32.:24:38.

display their David Inshaws with great pride. Using his evocations

:24:38.:24:41.

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

:24:41.:24:50.

modern, amongst the or historical displays. The contributions of

:24:50.:24:53.

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

:24:53.:24:56.

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

:24:56.:25:02.

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

:25:02.:25:08.

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

:25:08.:25:11.

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

:25:11.:25:14.

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

:25:14.:25:19.

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

:25:19.:25:24.

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

:25:24.:25:28.

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

:25:28.:25:32.

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

:25:32.:25:39.

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

:25:39.:25:43.

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

:25:43.:25:46.

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

:25:46.:25:52.

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

:25:52.:25:56.

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

:25:56.:26:00.

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

:26:00.:26:03.

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

:26:03.:26:08.

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

:26:08.:26:13.

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

:26:13.:26:18.

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

:26:18.:26:22.

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

:26:22.:26:27.

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

:26:27.:26:33.

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

:26:33.:26:35.

Perhaps paintings like the Badminton Game, publicly-owned but

:26:35.:26:37.

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

:26:38.:26:40.

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

:26:41.:26:47.

is incredibly important. But shouldn't gallery creators choose

:26:47.:26:51.

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

:26:51.:26:58.

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

:26:58.:27:02.

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

:27:02.:27:09.

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

:27:09.:27:15.

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

:27:15.:27:21.

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

:27:21.:27:25.

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

:27:25.:27:35.
:27:35.:27:46.

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

:27:46.:27:50.

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

:27:50.:27:55.

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

:27:55.:27:59.

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

:27:59.:28:09.
:28:09.:28:09.

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

:28:09.:28:11.

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.