Trevelyan, Julian, 1910-1988

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Epithet: painter and printmaker

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000001039.0x000251

Julian Trevelyan was born in Dorking, Surrey, in Feb 1910, the son of Elizabeth van der Hoeven and the poet R C Trevelyan (1872-1951), and the grandson of Sir George Otto Trevelyan (1838-1928), a Liberal politician and writer. One of a distinguished family he was also nephew of the historian G M Trevelyan (1876-1962) and a descendant of Lord Macaulay. Educated at Bedales School (where he contributed woodcuts to the school magazine, the 'Ray') and, from 1928 to 1930, at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read English. As an undergraduate he was friendly with a number of figures associated with the student magazine 'Experiment', including William Empson, Humphrey Jennings (1907-50), and George Reavey. Trevelyan left Cambridge in 1930 and moved to Paris, where he attended the Atelier 17 with S W Hayter until 1933 and he briefly attended art classes at the Paris Académie of Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant. In Paris Trevelyan met a number of important European artists and was friendly with Alexander Calder, Anthony Gross (1905-84), and Vieira da Silva. By 1934 he was living at Durham Wharf in Hammersmith by the Thames, where he lived for the rest of his life. There he gave popular annual parties for the Oxford and Cambridge boat race. In 1935 he established the Picture Circulating Library at Hammersmith, a scheme for lending works of art by contemporary artists. Works by Trevelyan exhibited in London in 1934 displayed two parallel styles; representational watercolours and drawings, and abstract oils, reliefs using cork and wire, and etchings. By 1937 he was also using pieces of newspapers in collages and was influenced by the work of Paul Klee. Julian Trevelyan's work was included in the International Exhibition of Surrealism at the New Burlington Galleries in 1936. He participated in some of the activities of the English Surrealists and was friendly with Roland Penrose (1900-84). Trevelyan, through friendship with Jennings, joined Mass-Observation investigators in Bolton ('Worktown') in 1937 and created a number of collages which he used to provoke debates on art with local residents. Founded in Jan 1937 by Tom Harrisson (1911-76), Humphrey Jennings and Charles Madge (born 1912), who had been undergraduates at Cambridge, Mass-Observation was an anthropological study of life in Britain. Trevelyan helped to organize the 'Unprofessional Painting' exhibition (of works by amateur artists) shown at the Bensham Grove Settlement at Gateshead-upon-Tyne in Oct 1938, and, a month later, at the Pioneer Health Centre in Peckham. He also participated in a debate on 'Painting and Realism' with amateur artists from the Ashington Group of Nottingham miners in Oct 1938, and contributed a foreword to the catalogue of the Mansfield Museum and Art Gallery exhibition, 'They Paint their own Lives' (Mar 1939). Trevelyan attended Pacifist demonstrations and produced work in support of the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). At the outbreak of the Second World War he joined Hayter's Industrial Camouflage Research Unit with Penrose. He subsequently served as a camouflage officer with the Royal Engineers (1940-43) before being discharged from the Army on medical grounds, in May 1943. He was posted to the Middle East during the war and his return to England via Sierra Leone and Nigeria inspired a number of works exhibited with success at the Lefevre Gallery in Dec 1942. Trevelyan was a tutor at Chelsea School of Art (1950-60) and at the Royal College of Art (1955-63), where he eventually became Head of the Etching Department and where David Hockney was one of his pupils. In addition to paintings and prints, Trevelyan designed dust-wrappers for books, patterns for textiles and illustrations for a number of magazine articles. He also received commissions to paint murals for the Festival of Britain, on the S S Canberra, the S S Orsova, and at Charing Cross Hospital. He was elected an honorary senior Royal Academician in 1986 and made a senior fellow of the Royal College of Art. In 1963 Trevelyan contracted a serious viral infection that permanently affected his speech. This illness encouraged him to concentrate on print-making and in 1965 he was one of the founder members of the Printmakers' Council. His etching works include the 'Malta Suite' (1959), the 'London Suite' (1963), the 'Bolton Suite' (1965), the 'Florence Suite' (1966), the 'Africa Suite' (1967), the 'India Suite' (1968), the 'Thames Suite' (1969), a second 'Malta Suite' (1970), and the 'Provencal Suite' (1972). Julian Trevelyan's first joint exhibition was at the Bloomsbury Gallery in London with Robin Darwin in 1932. His first one-man show was at the Lefevre Gallery in Dec 1935, where he continued to exhibit till 1948. In 1950 Trevelyan held an exhibition at Gimpel Fils, then, two years later, at the Redfern Gallery. He exhibited at the Zwemmer Gallery, between 1955 and 1967, and at the New Grafton Gallery, between 1977 and 1987. Retrospectives were held in 1977, at the New Grafton Gallery, and in 1986, at the Watermans Art Centre, Brentford. A major retrospective was held at the Royal College of Art in 1998. Trevelyan exhibited in group shows overseas on a number of occasions, notably in Paris at the Galerie de France in 1948. He first exhibited work with the London Group in 1929 and was a member from 1949 to 1964, and vice-president in 1956. He also exhibited regularly with the Artists International Association, between 1937 and 1968, and on several occasions with the Contemporary Art Society. Julian Trevelyan travelled widely, making visits to Mount Athos (in 1931), Yugoslavia (in 1932), where he worked as part of a small film unit and painted murals in Dubrovnick, Malta (in 1958 and again in 1970), Russia (in 1960), Uganda (in 1966), India (1967-68), Morocco (in 1972), and to most countries in Europe. He married the potter Ursula Darwin in Jul 1934 and they had a son, Philip Trevelyan (born Aug 1943), who became a film-maker. The couple divorced in 1950 and in the following year Trevelyan married the artist Mary Fedden (born 1915). Works by Julian Trevelyan are included in the collections of the Arts Council, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and Tate Gallery, in many British provincial galleries, in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in Brooklyn Museum, and in the museums of Cincinnati, Melbourne, and Seattle. Julian Trevelyan's life and work are discussed in Nicholas Usherwood's exhibition catalogue, 'The Imaginative Impulse: Julian Trevelyan, 1910-88' (Henley-on-Thames, 1998). His prints are described in Silvie Turner's 'Julian Trevelyan: Catalogue Raisonné of Prints' (1998), which includes biographical notes and a bibliography.

From the guide to the Scrapbooks, press cuttings books, artworks and photographs of the painter and print-maker Julian Otto Trevelyan (1910-1988), 1929-1988, (Tate Gallery Archive)

Relation Name
associatedWith Bottomley, Gordon, 1874-1948 person
associatedWith Casson Hugh person
associatedWith Chase Valerie person
associatedWith Chelsea School of Art corporateBody
associatedWith Da Silva Maria Helena person
correspondedWith Empson, William, 1906-1984 person
associatedWith Gascoyne, David Emery, 1916-2001 person
associatedWith Hayter S. W. person
associatedWith R.A.F corporateBody
correspondedWith Redgrave, Michael person
associatedWith Royal School of Art corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country


Birth 1910-02-20

Death 1988-07-12




Ark ID: w6cc8q6f

SNAC ID: 33650468