It’s one of the amazing things about London, but no matter how well you think you know it, you find something new, often by accident. Having worked at London Bridge for many years, a short walk or tube journey from London South Bank University, I only recently discovered the existence of the Borough Road Gallery, located within the university and opened in 2012. I have yet to visit, and that will have to wait until life returns to some semblance of normality, but here is a gallery dedicated to a group of 20th century British artists, including David Bomberg, Dennis Creffield, Cliff Holden, Thomas Holden, Edna Mann, Dorothy Mead and Miles Richmond, paintings and drawings by whom were donated to the university by the collector Sarah Rose.
One of Britain’s most significant, but undervalued, artists from the 20th century, David Bomberg (1890-1957) taught at London South Bank University when it was the Borough Polytechnic, with his students including many of those in the Sarah Rose legacy who were part of the Borough Group, which exhibited together from 1946-1951. It is strange to think today as you walk down Borough High Street towards the changing area of Elephant & Castle that Borough was such a hotbed of artistic talent, with the influence of these artists now continuing within the university’s School of Arts and Creative Industries.
Earlier in the year, the National Gallery held one of its small focused exhibitions, showing bold and audacious studies and paintings of the young David Bomberg alongside paintings he admired and was inspired by in the National Gallery.
One was so controversial in its day – a study of Canadian tunnellers as a First World War memorial – that is was rejected as an ‘abortion’ by the Canadians’ art advisor. You can understand why – it must have been challenging at the time; today we can admire the energy, power and darkness that Bomberg created in the work.
I have seen Bomberg’s work at the Ben Uri Gallery in north London, and now look forward to visiting the gallery at London South Bank University.