Private Collection

John Armstrong (1893 - 1973)

The bird, circa 1927

SKU: 3
Signed with monogram

Tempera on panel, 15 x 15 in. (38 x 38 cm.)


Height – 38cm x Width – 38cm


Peyton Skipwith

Provenance: Peyton Skipwith
Exhibited: London, Leicester Galleries, John Armstrong, January 1928
(6); London, Fine Art Society, Britain Between the Wars, 1918-1939,
March 2004, no. 2
Surrealism was born in France in 1924 and did not cross the Channel in
any concrete form until 1936 when the International Surrealist
Exhibition was staged in London. However, this fully-fledged Surrealist
image by Armstrong, in his typically bold palette with its emphasis on
pinks, yellows and greens, was included in his first one-man exhibition
at the Leicester Galleries in 1928. By any standards it is a remarkable
image for its period.
Unit One, of which Armstrong was a member from the outset (formed in
1933 by Paul Nash), played a major part in promoting Surrealism in
Britain and organising the International Surrealist Exhibition in

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John Armstrong
1893 - 1973

Painter of imaginative and classical subjects in oil, tempera and gouache; mural painter; designer of film and stage sets; book illustrator and advertising designer. He was born in Hastings, Sussex. After Oxford University, Armstrong studied at St John’s Wood School of Art, 1913-14, then after service in the Army in World War I returned to St John’s Wood briefly. He held his first one-man show at the Leicester Galleries in 1928. In 1933 he became a member of Unit One, after which his work took on a surrealist character. In the 1930s Armstrong worked as a designer for theatre and film, including the first performance of the ballet Façade and several films made by Sir Alexander Korda. He also did work for Shell-Mex and ICI. During World War II Armstrong was an Official War Artist. For the Festival of Britain 1951, he was commissioned to produce The Storm, and exhibited extensively at the RA from that year. He painted a ceiling for the Council Chamber, Bristol, in 1955 and six years later a mural for the Royal Marsden Hospital, at Sutton, Surrey. Armstrong had strong left-wing political convictions and from the time of the Spanish Civil War, when he painted Pro Patria, his pictures occasionally reflected his views. Symbolism is also a feature of his work. Armstrong’s pictures are fastidiously painted in muted colours and reflect his own dry wit and gentle nature. Along with John Banting, he is one of only a handful of British artists whose oeuvre can be correctly described as surrealist. The RA held a memorial exhibition in 1975. He lived in London.


SKU: 9855

John Armstrong (1893 - 1973)

The Peculiar Park with woman on bench, study for Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton, Surrey, 1961