The contents of the studio of the English painter and engraver, Bernard Key (1927 – 2021) will be offered at Oxfordshire’s Mallams on July 28.
‘The Bernard Kay Studio Sale’ features work by the artists who started working in the post-World War II period and was at the forefront of British art in the 1950s.
Kay was born and raised in Southport and went on to attend the Liverpool School of Art (1943-1946), and the Royal Academy School of Painting in London (1948-1949) where he painted his abstracts alongside his friends Robyn Denny, David Hockney, and Richard Smith. Later, he taught drawing at the Southport School of Art and Crafts (1950-1952) and etching at the Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts.
He moved to London permanently in 1953, and in 1954 he won a French Government Scholarship for Painting, and studied at the Académie Ronson in Paris from 1954 to 1955, moving on to study etching at the Atelier Friedlander, also in Paris. Kay was one of a number of post-war English artists whose work was exhibited in group shows and individually in London in the 1950s, and attracted favourable attention from national critics.
The auction house’s sale includes early works from Kay’s time at the Liverpool School of Art and the Royal Academy School of Painting as well as an eclectic mix of other items from his studio.
During his career, Kay exhibited at such venues as the Archer Gallery in London, and the Southport Summer Exhibition of Modern Art in 1954; a collection of his engraving was shown at the Galeriew La Hune, Paris, in 1955; and his work featured in the Daily Express Young Artists’ Exhibitions in London during the same year.
Kay’s first one man exhibition was held in tandem with Norman Adams under the auspices of Roland Browse and Delbanco in January 1959, while a further one man exhibition was held under the same auspices with Phillip Sutton in March 1962. He also contributed to the ‘Cathedrals’ Suite of Etching of the Editions Alecto published in Spring 1966.
From 1955 through to the late 1960s Kay undertook a series of etchings in conjunction with the St, George’s Gallery, London. In 1965 he published a series of aquatints known as the ‘Cathedral Suite’.
Kay’s work has been purchased for their permanent collections by a number of leading institutions, including the Adelaide Museum of Modern Art, painting (1958), the Harris Art Gallery, Preston, painting (1958), the Museum of Modern Art, New York, aquatint (1959), The Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art, print prize (1959), the Seattle Art Museum, painting (1959), the Victoria and Albert Museum, aquatint (1959), the British Council, aquatint (1960), the Atkinson Art Gallery, Southport, painting (1962), the Cartwright Art Gallery, Bradford, painting (1963).
In addition, Kay’s paintings and etchings have sold well to private collectors in the UK and overseas, and his work has appeared in American Vogue magazine.