This composition shows Finney’s first wife, Nita, with their son Brian born in 1935.
A reclusive figure whose work has remained largely unseen Finney studied under Eric Gill before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in the early 1920’s; his closest were Charles Mahoney,(1903-1968), Gerald Ososki (1903-1981) and Barnett Freedman (1901-1958) . All four appear together in Freedman’s group portrait, The Stanhope Street Group (1926). Finney had the good fortune to attend the RCA as part of a generation that were to become amongst Britains best loved artists (Ravilious, Bawden, Hepworth, Moore, Dunbar, Sorrell, Piper etc).
Equally versatile when working on canvas or paper his compositions are characterised by a distinctive use of colour and design, similar in many ways to that of Ravilous, through which everyday scenes and topography are transformed through an underlying sense of pattern. Finney’s work is saturated with a the aesthetic now much associated with the mid-century Recording Britain project.
After a travelling scholarship to Rome in 1924 Finney took a teaching post to work alongside Percy Jowett at Chelsea School of Art and later Reading University. During WW2 he served in the Civil Defense.
Extracts from his unpublished diary, which give a colourful first hand account of his life, are due to be published in 2021 in the context of a touring museum show.
Nicholas Finney, the artist’s son, recalls that Finney’s first wife, Nita, was a cultural and refined individual who admired my father’s work but probably despaired of his inability to look after a family and young child. Nevertheless there are a number of moving portraits of Nita and of her early motherhood with their son Brian, born in 1935. This is a study for the painting acquired by Tullie House Art Gallery on the advice of William Rothenstein who had mentored Finney at the R.C.A
We are grateful to Nicholas Finney for assistance.