Rupert Lee British, 1887-1959

Born in Bombay, Rupert Lee trained at the Royal College of Art and the Slade where he became friendly with Robert Gibbings and Paul Nash. Also a talented musician, soon after leaving the Slade he was employed by Edward Gordon Craig to be his musical director, but the position was cut short by the outbreak of the First World War. Lee served in the Queen's Westminster Rifles in the Machine Gun Corps and suffered shell shock following the March Retreat of 1918. The series of paintings and drawings he produced whilst serving in the Trenches showed him to be in sympathy with elements of Futurism and Vorticism. Between 1919 and 1922 he collaborated closely with Paul and John Nash producing wood engravings for the Sun Calendar Yearbook and The Poetry Bookshop. At this period his paintings and wood engravings were bought by notable collectors such as Arnold Bennett, Roger Fry, Edward Marsh and Michael Sadler. Concentrating on animal subjects, his fluid line drawings and early carvings owed something to Gaudier-Brzeska, an artist he greatly admired. Turning his attention to sculpture during the 1920s - he was elected President of the London Group in 1926 and was responsible for organising the important open-air sculpture exhibition on the roof gardens of Selfridges in 1930 and was one of the first to encourage and promote the work of the young Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. During the 1920s and 30s he was closely associated with Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and the Bloomsbury Group. He was Chairman of the 1936 International Surrealist exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries and worked tirelessly to encourage the modern movement in England. Moving to Spain in 1946, Lee was tragically killed in a motor accident in 1959. A major book about his life and work has recently been published which sheds new light on his close friendship with Paul Nash and a retrospective exhibition was staged at Gallery 27 in Cork Street in May 2010.