Born in 1942 in London, Arthur Maderson studied Fine Art from 1959 to 1963 at Camberwell School of Art, South London, where in 1963 he won the Anna Berry Award in open competition with graduates from all leading art schools in England. Camberwell was not in the forefront of avant-garde art schools but rather placed emphasis on solid draughtsmanship, traditional techniques and skills. It was at this stage that he developed a lifelong admiration for the work of Rembrandt, Degas, Vuillard and both Monet and Manet. Camberwell was fortunate to include amongst its teaching staff such internationally renowned artists as Frank Auerback, Ron Kitaj, Robert Medley and Patrick Procktor.
His previous interest in psychology and psychiatry led him in the direction of exploring the possibilities of using art as a developmental tool in the process of re-habilitation in both penal and mental institutions. In January 1970 he accepted the post of Head Art Therapist at Park Prewett Hospital, Basingstoke, Hampshire, a position he held for eight years. In 1978 he moved to Street, Somerset and worked at the British Institute for Brain Injured Children at Knowle Hall, Bridgewater, as a clinical tutor. His responsibilities included organising and re-assessing individual programmes of physical and neurological developmental activities for brain injured children. Arthur is an experienced lecturer in further education, and has held classes in Hampshire and Somerset, where he taught painting and chess. His essential fascination being with the (not as yet fully understood) physiological and psychological mechanisms of perception. Although he enjoyed the challenge and stimulus of this work, in 1980 he decided to devote all his energies towards painting full-time.
It was not until 1982 that Arthur exhibited his paintings. Few examples of his work prior to this have survived as he destroyed the major part of his output. His progress and indeed success as a professional painter from this period was rapid.
In many ways Arthur has been oblivious to current fads and trends in painting. He pursues his goal, which is to fully integrate the image into the picture surface with a fierce determination, fully convinced that the organisational demands of the picture itself do not contradict the subtle exploration of the rich kaleidoscope of ‘raw’ visual information, ‘raw’ information which Arthur describes as information uncontaminated by pre-conceived ideas as to what it should look like, the final pictorial statement being the outcome of this struggle. He constantly underlines the need to trust in what is actually seen, as opposed to seeing what is believed to exist. This ‘raw’ information is infinitely surprising and varied and capable of numerous levels of interpretation. Concepts of local colour disappear and forms, whether in landscape or figure study, are allowed to emerge or evaporate as they do in nature. It is light we primarily see, and conclusions as to what this light in fact ‘represents’ is a secondary matter to be relished as a joint enterprise with the spectator, who is compelled to participate in the process of exploring possibilities of interpretation. In an article in the ‘Artist’ magazine, Arthur describes the process as follows, “Whilst we have an intellectual understanding of the separateness of the objects, they arrive on our retina in a fully integrated and delightful state of chaos. To resort to illustration in order to give the spectator an easy ride is to insult their visual intelligence. An intelligence which actually thrives on the mysterious process of scanning a wide range of possibilities. For me the pictures are fuel for the imagination. The spectator’s role changing rapidly, no longer the detached observer of other people’s skills, but rather as a very active participant.
In 1987 Arthur moves from Somerset to a totally isolated 17th century welsh longhouse high in the Cambrian Mountains, without electricity or a phone. This move, against his agent’s advice to ‘move to London’, indicates both a single-minded aspect of his personality combined with a reclusive tendency. He does not court publicity or move in ‘artistic circles’, and is almost impossible to contact by phone. To the few people who know him well, he appears genuinely surprised by his success.
In September of 1989 Arthur moved to Cappoquin, Co. Waterford. Although he had established a formidable reputation in the UK, he moved to relative obscurity in Ireland, however he is now recognised as being amongst Irelands strongest figurative painters. His first one-man show in Dublin proved to be a stunning success; in fact all his one-man exhibitions in the Republic have been sold out. He has exhibited at the Royal Academy of London and was awarded the Cornelissen Award at the West of England Academy, and achieved an award for ‘most distinguished painting’ at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin.
Whilst he continues to paint on a regular basis, he rarely exhibits his work, now painting primarily for pleasure. His working life is now shared between the Blackwater Valley in County Waterford and the mountainous Cevenne region in the South of France. Arthur works at a frantic pace with dedication, determination and unflagging vigour, working up to 14 hours a day and taking just a handful of days off each year.
His work is highly distinctive, being both powerful and subtle. In a catalogue foreword for his sold out 1988 London exhibition at the Alpine Gallery, Bernard Dunstan wrote that when he first saw Maderson’s pictures, ‘The names of Monet, Seurat, Bonnard and Vuillard came to mind’. In Robert O’Byrne’s Dictionary of Living Irish Artists (Irish by inclination!), he points out though his style has since grown freer and more expressionistic. There is always a strong distinction between light and dark in his work, with figures throwing lengthy and powerful shadows onto the near white ground. In his landscapes the effect of light dappling through trees or on the surface of water is a favourite motif. Red and blue have become the preferred colours in Maderson’s palette, one warming up his pictures whilst the other correspondingly stops them becoming overheated. But like the Impressionists he is aware of how many different tints can be found in a seemingly monochrome object and so he moves confidently across the entire colour spectrum. In December o f2009 he said what he is attempting to achieve is, “to recognise that it is only through a detached analysis of the visual world in terms of touches and stabs of colour that it is possible to explore and enjoy the richness and variety of what we perceive”.
Arthur has written numerous articles for magazines and books on painting including, ‘The Encyclopaedia of Oil Painting Techniques’ by Jeremy Galton, ‘Light’ by Lucy Willis and ‘Modern Oil Impressionists’ by Ron Ranson ( where he was included in a list of seventeen of the most successful and popular figurative painters). As an insight into his passionate involvement and commitment to painting he wrote in the International Artist Magazine, ‘at whichever level we paint, we can be confident that there is no finer activity. It grows with us and we grow with it. Long after the earthly power of politicians is relegated to the history books and the accumulated riches of the wealthy have come to dust, people will still be marvelling at a Rembrandt or listening to Puccini. They will remain more loved and powerful than any politician or businessman ever was’.
Perhaps the last word should belong to the late Pat Hopper, who in a foreword to Arthur’s exhibition at the James Gallery in Dalkey, Dublin wrote, ‘It may be challenging to precisely define the reasons for Arthur’s success, his work is always quite distinctive, born of a highly personal and singular vision it is quite unlike any other painter. Above all, he does not underestimate the visual intelligence or the spectator, who is consequently drawn into a world in which we are directly participating in a complex perceptual process. To a large degree we are unable to manipulate an control images that are never polished, lifeless or frozen. No two brush strokes are the same. Ultimately this vision serves to expand and broaden our sense of colour, our sense of what the world could be like or perhaps is like. I suspect that the day and night markets in France, beach studies, horse fairs etc will never quite be the same after having seen them through Arthur’s eye’s.