WEST END UNOFFICIAL ART GALLERY “MOVED ON “
I’ve written about REM (Thomas Reynolds) before, but this is the court case that actually sealed his fate as a pavement artist; although he did carry on working outside St-Martins-in-the-Field until at least 1940, his life was never the same again.
“Rem’s” Masterpieces May No Longer Be Hung on Famous Church Railings
What was probably the beginning of the end of a romantic story of an artist’s fight for recognition in the streets of London was heard in Bow-street Police Court yesterday.
PEOPLE who frequent the West End will recall a Bohemian figure sitting before his easel outside St. Martin-in-the-Fields, with a row of his canvases—including portraits of his own grave, spade bearded face—hanging from the churchyard railings, and turning that little corner of the city into an unofficial art gallery.
REM: Thomas Reynolds, outside St-Martins-in-the-Field 1940
“Studied in the Finest Schools”
He is no ordinary pavement artist—though he will not refuse the smallest copper tribute. His skillful brush, which has earned hundreds in more prosperous times produces serious portraits, not still-life studies of salmon.
“I am well known to the general public as Rem,” he told Mr. Fry, the magistrate. “I have studied in the finest schools in Europe.” But his open-air exhibition may be seen no more. After ten years as one of the minor curiosities of London. Rem has been “moved on” by the police. .
An officer with no sympathy for art explained that the crowds who collected round him caused an obstruction. He also hinted that there had been complaints from the ecclesiastical authorities about the pictures on the railings.
Rem, a dignified figure in the dock, denied both charges.
“The Rev. Dick Sheppard has no objection to my working there,” he declared. “The pavement is 47ft. wide—if a regiment of soldiers passed there would still be plenty of room for people to look at my work. But they were not interested in art on that night, and I fail to see where the obstruction comes in.”
“You haven’t any right to use the pavement as your studio,” pointed out Mr. Fry.
REM: Thomas Reynolds, outside St-Martins-in-the-Field 1940 (Original Press Photo)
Then Gaoler Stillwell, who had ushered Rem into the dock, spoke up unexpectedly as a champion of art. “He has been there ever since I have been in the West End,” he told the magistrate. “He ‘ is a wonderful artist, sir!”
Mr. Fry was not to be drawn into a critical discussion. “You mustn’t do this,” he repeated. “If every artist painted on the foot-way something would have to be done about it!”
Rem nervously fingered his spotted bow tie. “If I stayed in a back room in Chelsea I should never get any commissions,” he pleaded. “I should die of starvation, ”
“Besides,” he added—and a note of regret crept into his voice—”the crowds were not looking at me. Only a few people understand my work—I am a classic portrait painter.”
Once more Mr. Fry declined to be lured into the perilous realm of artistic controversy. His attention remained resolutely fixed on the more mundane theme of obstruction. “Ten shillings.” he murmured regretfully.
The “master” whose enthusiasm and enterprise had landed him in the clutches of the law silently departed.
It remains to be seen whether or not his work will continue to decorate St. Martin-in-the-Fields in gallant rivalry of the National Gallery opposite. . .
Published in The Daily Mirror newspaper: Tuesday 14th May 1935 (page 23)
Written by Beau Street
A champion of pavement-art
REM: Thomas Reynolds, outside The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square 1925 (Original Press Photo)
REM started as a chalking pavement artist outside the National Gallery, London. In later life he became a “board-man” and presented portraits on the railings of St-Martins-in-the-Field Church. He was even the subject of a British Pathé Newsreel Film & BBC Radio Broadcast.
He was the only pavement artist to be included in a Touristic Guide of London’s MUST-SEE attractions. When he was “brought to book” by the Bow Street Police Courts, his case made the national newspapers. You can read more about REM on the following link! Ruined by War (1935)
Researched by Philip Battle
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