ENTRY: Ovenden, Graham
Graham Ovenden (b. 1943) is an English painter, fine art photographer, writer and architect.
Born in New Alresford into a Fabian household, Ovenden attended Itchen Grammar School (1954-59) and
was taught music privately by Albert Ketelbey. Ovenden went on to be a student at the Royal College
of Music, before he eventually turned to the visual arts.
His 1950s street photographs of London's children's street culture have been published as Childhood Streets (1998).
In his youth he was mentored by Lord David Cecil and Sir John Betjeman. He attended the Southampton
School of Art, and graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1968. One of his most important teachers
was James Sellars, an expert on Samuel Palmer. His main fame has been as a painter, and he seems to
have begun painting from 1962/3.
Ovenden was a key founder of the Brotherhood of Ruralists in 1975, along with Graham Arnold, Ann
Arnold, Sir Peter Blake, David Inshaw and other painters. The Brotherhood is still extant, although
three members have left; and in 2005 it had a major London exhibition at the Leicester Galleries.
They were given the name "Ruralists" by writer Laurie Lee.
Ovenden is an established authority on Victorian photography, although not one without an impish
sense of fun:- he once secreted some masterly forgeries into the National Portrait Gallery, under
the name of a mythical Victorian era photographer named Francis Hetling. A small scandal ensued
and Ovenden actually found himself being prosecuted at the Old Bailey. He was found not guilty.
Among his books on Victorian photography are: Pre Raphaelite Photography (1972); Victorian
Children (1972); Victorian Erotic Photography (1973); A Victorian Album - Julia Margaret
Cameron and Her Circle (1975); Alphonse Mucha Photographs (1974); Clementina Lady Hawarden
(1974); Hill & Adamson, Photographers (1973); Lewis Carroll (1984). He also curated the 1993/4
exhibition Recording Angels, The Work of Lewis Wickes Hine.
Ovenden is noted as a photographer in his own right, and his book States of Grace (1993) is highly sought after
by collectors and is now almost impossible to obtain. He is also a writer, having contributed
to a variety of journals, and he has also undertaken stage design and book illustrations.
His work is in a variety of collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Tate,
and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Since he moved to Cornwall in 1973 with painter Annie Ovenden and his family, Ovenden has
been constructing the only current neo-Gothic building in England, "Barley Splatt" near
Bodmin in Cornwall. Barley Splatt has featured in a number of architectural journals and magazines.
His daughter Emily grew up at Barley Splatt and is now a writer, and a singer with the Mediaeval Baebes.
Victor Arwas, Laurie Lee, Robert Melville. Graham Ovenden. (Academy Editions, 1987)
The Brotherhood of Ruralists - A Celebration (2003)
Christopher Martin (Ed). Art & Design No.23 - The Ruralists (Academy Editions, 1991)
Hugh Cumming. "Post-Modern Landscape: The Art of Graham Ovenden" in: Art and Design: The Post-Avant-Garde Painting in the Eighties (1987)
States of Grace (1993)
Made in Staffordshire, England. © 2007.
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