Reginald Brill led a remarkable life – by the age of 13, he was living in lodgings in London, working in a City office and attending St Martins School of Art in the evenings. In 1921 he won a scholarship to The Slade where he studied under Henry Tonks for three years. By the time of the General Strike (1926) Brill was working on Lansbury’s Labour Weekly, and had married a fellow art student, Rosalie. In 1927 he won the Prix de Rome in Decorative Painting. and the newly weds went to spend two years at The British School in Rome. On his return to England Brill went to teach at Blackheath School of Art. During 1930 he spent three months painting in Egypt and it was there that he met Col.T.G.Gayer-Anderson, one of the twin brothers who were to bequeath The Little Hall in Lavenham as a hostel for art students. It was there that Brill retired to act as warden, thus continuing his nurturing of art students until his death in 1972.
This early compostional study shows Brills draghtsmanship at its best.
His perfectionism, acute powers of observation and relentless research can be seen in his drawings, which via the media and methods he explored throughout his life reflect mid 20th century British Art at its most typical. His major series of work, known as The Martyrdom of Man’, was carried on in parallel to his career as a teacher. These paintings reflect his care for fellow man and depict people at work, eg The Operation, The Jury, Linemen, Waiting Room and Rest, which recently sold at Sothebys and was specially restored for The Brill Retrospective. His smaller works also play with the theme of everyday events and communication amongst people, such as The Bull Ring and Market Place paintings. Reggie Brill was a versatile artist who valued drawing as the solid base for his, and his students work. His name is associated particularly with human figure compositions, but he also worked on landscapes, portraits and details of plants, animals, interiors etc. As one would expect he moved from one media to another, and his unusual hand painted and cut paper mosaics are beautifully designed and worked. The intrinsic Englishness of his work, with its narrative theme and the emphasis on people in their environment, combined with his interest and concern in human behaviour results in a legacy of excellence as yet unexploited.
We are grateful to Waterhouse and Dodd for assistance with this text