TOM MOSTYN (1864-1930)
His Life and Works
He is an illustrator of ideas and a painter of emotions, dealing with them with a firmness betraying a real knowledge of human nature
The Magazine of Art, 1899
Born in Liverpool in 1864 and raised in Manchester, Tom Mostyn, the son of the artist Edwin Mostyn, studied at the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. He had his first local exhibition in 1880, and was showing at the Royal Academy (R.A.) by the age of 29. He is mainly recognized for his romantic garden scenes, although his style was so eclectic throughout his career that it is hard to believe that the same artist created all of his paintings.
Many of his earliest works were strongly influenced by the/strong anti-"Victorian Materialist" sentiment of his teacher Sir Hubert Von Herkomer (whose school he entered in 1893). In these works Mostyn depicted the poverty of the working classes in the style of the realists, an effective way of raising social consciousness. Among his most important works from this period are The Torrent (R.A. 1895), The Dreamers (R.A. 1897 and illustrated below) and The Doss-house (R.A. 1905) However, Mostyn also had a lighter side that followed the traditions of many more traditional Victorian artists. During the early part of his career he painted a number of sumptuous Victorian garden scenes that featured homes with formal gardens or thatched cottages surrounded by lush and colorful flowers - a typical example is illustrated below. The late 1890's also found the artist experimenting with religious images, for which he received recognition as" one of the few modern painters who can paint a religious picture with absolute sincerity" (Daily Mail. June 27, 1907). Although he readily changed styles, Mostyn was always praised.
His most important transition took place between 1911 and 1912. The works from this period feature figures, which are so predominant in his earlier works, in lavish garden settings - blending the two subjects he was currently exploring. In 1918, after WWI, Mostyn moved to Devon where he concentrated on a series of enchanted garden scenes for which he would become best known. Leaving realism behind, Mostyn began to paint dream-like landscapes, idealizing nature by working with, and building upon, his knowledge of nature's strength and beauty. By piling thick layers of intensely bright colored pigment onto the canvas with a palette knife, he overhelmed the viewer with a barrage of visual stimuli in an effort to evoke their imagination. Mostyn was not content to soften down facts and realities by veiling them' in an atmosphere of subtle illusion, like so many of the Impressionists did. Reality became of small importance to the artist's scheme. Instead he set out to create a world of his own, in which romance was the dominant note. Because of Mostyn's use of color as form, these works caused some controversy, and were criticized by some to be little more than "orgies in paint". Mostyn refused to succumb to any of the contemporary fallacies (ie: materialism and technology). He did not confine himself to paint with any set formula nor did he limit his choice of subject matter to any popular motif. On the contrary, he felt that every moment called for its individual way of being seen and therefore its unique way of being painted. During the 1920's the Fine Art Society, London, held a number of one-man exhibitions: Gardens of Enchantment (July 1920), Glorious Devon (1922) and Gardens of Romance (June 1923 & July 1925). Among the works featured in these exhibitions were: Until his death in 1930, Mostyn's own convictions guided him in a struggle for expression, which became the main influence in his work. It caused his style to undergo the many changes that we can observe in the body of his work today. Mostyn exhibited at the Royal Academy, and was a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Oil-Colours, the Royal Cambrian Academy, and the Royal West of England Academy. He also exhibited in the Paris Salon, and at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh.