Thursday, October 6, 2022
Remembering James Dickson Innes – Artist

Remembering James Dickson Innes – Artist

JAMES Dickson Innes was born in 1887 at Greenfield Villas, Murray Street, the son of the historian John Innes. Following his early education at Christ College, Brecon he attended the Carmarthen Art School in 1904 and later trained at the Slade School in London. Sadly his life was cut short by tuberculosis and he died in 1914.

It was landscape that inspired him and he particularly loved the mountains of Wales. He paid many visits with his great friend Augustus John to north Wales to paint the landscape. He also travelled and painted in France and Spain.

James Dickson Innes’s most original landscapes were painted in rich colours and express his feelings about the view before him. The paintings of James Dickson Innes are admired all over the world.

104 years ago today, (Aug 22) 1914, James Dickson Innes died at Wyndcolt, Swanley Junction, Kent. His friend and patron Horace de Vere Cole arranged, with Augustus John, a simple funeral ceremony at Chiselhurst Cemetery, Swanley.

His father, John Innes, who had come from Scotland, was an historian and had an interest in a local brass and copper works; his mother was of Catalan descent. He had two brothers, Alfred and Jack.

His parents sent him to be educated at Christ College, Brecon. Afterwards he studied at the Carmarthen School of Art (1904–05), from where he won a scholarship to the Slade School of Art in London (1905–08). His teachers at the Slade included P. Wilson Steer.

From 1907 he exhibited with the New English Art Club; and in 1911 he became a member of the Camden Town Group. The Camden Town Group included Walter Sickert who was an influence on Innes’s art, and Augustus John with whom Innes became friends.

In 1911 he had a two-man exhibition with Eric Gill at the Chenil Gallery, London: “Sculptures by Mr Eric Gill and Landscapes by Mr J. D. Innes”.

In 1913 Innes exhibited in the influential Armory Show in New York City, Chicago and Boston.

In 1911 and 1912 he spent some time painting with Augustus John around Arenig Fawr in the Arenig valley in North Wales; but much of his work was done overseas, mainly in France (1908–13), notably at Collioure, but also in Spain (1913) and Morocco (1913) – foreign travel having been prescribed after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Eventually, on 22 August 1914, at the age of twenty-seven, he died of the disease at a nursing home in Swanley, Kent. In 1933 his body was disinterred and his remains were reburied in the cemetery of St. Andrew’s Church, Whitchurch, Tavistock.

A blue plaque on Murray Street commemorates this great artist from Llanelli.

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Swanley Cole wrote the following poem which he placed in the coffin:

He loved the mountains, and the spaces
Where breakers curl along a desert shore
Great suns, and women’s magic-making faces
Aglow amidst some vineyard’s trellised store,
He loved all things where beauty is most wild,
His soul a poet, and his heart a child.

The storm-girt summits of his native land
Made mountain music that to him was speech;
He learnt their secrets; and a flaming brand;
Born of their vapours, wisp-like out of reach,
Lured him to seek out beauty in the woods
That crown with purple those wild solitudes.

He found her in deep, amethystine caves
He saw her form athwart the dawn-barred sky,
Followed her track across the dewy waves
That trembled at the sunbeams – soon to die!
He watched her clothed in all her midday spell,
But felt her nearest when the evening fell.

And through his vision and enchanted brain
He caught and held her for a moment’s space,
And ever after she returned again
When from his soul he summoned her embrace,
And in his eyes, where once her kiss had stayed,
For ever after gentle lightnings played.

And now she lures him back to the unknown
Whence she came forth, and where her lovers go;
You were his friends, and knew his spirit’s throne
How high it was, and bright as southern snow;
Then mourn him not; this is his wedding day;
His bride called to him, and he could not stay.’

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