"One of England's most closely guarded secrets" - R.B. Kitaj
From the early 1950s when his work was first noticed by John Berger to more recently when the Tate included his work in the exhibition, All Too Human (2018), Creffield has been significant presence and influence on British art. There is no doubt that his charcoal drawings of the 26 English cathedrals, commissioned in 1985, brought him extraordinary popularity as well as acclaim. The critic Peter Fuller regarded them as the greatest body of draughtsmanship since the Second World War and R.B. Kitaj called the charcoals “the best things of their kind since Mondrian’s church facades”. Creffield’s work appears in many significant public collections, not least Tate Britain, Los Angeles County Museum, the National Bank of Japan and the British Museum.
Creffield was born in London on 29th January 1931. Initially taught by David Bomberg and a contemporary of Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach at the Borough Polytechnic, Creffield quickly developed a unique style and became, in John Russel Taylor’s words, “a brilliantly individual artist”. Creffield was in many ways a quintessentially English artist. Turner and Blake were significant influences on his mature work and his love of literature (particularly Shakespeare) and music infused his art. Martin Gayford commented that “Creffield’s work became more light, airy, and - an unusual quality especially in port-war figurative art – joyous.” Creffield, on his passing in 2018, left a rich and varied legacy which we hope the book and our exhibition will do much to promote.