Hans Schwarz (1922-2003), painter, sculptor, illustrator and author, was born in Vienna and died in Greenwich, London.
Schwarz is primarily remembered for his portraiture and his work is in many public and private collections including the National Portrait Gallery. He is also known for his paintings of people and places in Greenwich (where he lived from 1970), Somerset (where he had a house from 1965) and coastal villages in France and Spain. Earlier in his career he was a productive and successful graphic artist and sculptor.
After his death there were two very successful sales at Bonhams in 2004 and 2005. Now, eleven years later, there is a major revival of interest in this important artist's work. A highly successful exhibition of work from his studio collection was held in October 2014, another in Greenwich in 2015 and a further major exhibition is planned for Somerset in 2017.
Historic England has recently listed a major sculpture by Hans Schwarz - The ‘Market Woman’ at Wallsend in North Tyneside. It was listed because of its aesthetic quality, its material (bronze), its historic interest, and its contribution to the public realm. You can read the full listing on Historic England’s website www.historicengland.org.uk/listing the list entry is no 1437357. It is also mentioned in the ‘Culture24’ website www.culture24.org.uk
It is among five sculptures in August 2016, others being by Anthony Gormley, Andy Frost, Geoffrey Clarke and David Hamilton.
In 1964 Schwarz gave up commercial work and moved to a cottage in the village of Stogursey in Somerset. He intended to pursue painting and sculpture without the pressure of commercial work. He had a number of commissions for sculptures in a variety of media including fibreglass, steel, wood and bronze. The Birmingham based architects J Seymour Harris were designing shopping centres in various parts of the country and commissioned sculptures as part of their designs. In 1965 Schwarz was asked to design a sculpture for the Wallsend “Forum” shopping centre. He chose a market woman with a basket on her head full of poultry to sell at the market. He wrote that he wanted the woman, “to appear as a tough, hardworking peasant and not a graceful girl”. It was not well received by the local population. It was originally on a low brick base but was moved to its present position in 1993 and is now surrounded by a low hedge. As a large bronze, it is unique in Schwarz’s oeuvre.
Schwarz completed another commission from J Seymour Harris – 12 relief panels at the Martineau Square in Birmingham. Unfortunately these are no longer there.
The sculpture was produced at a time when Schwarz was still exploring a variety of media – indeed he was not sure at the time whether painting or sculpture would be his main direction. Painting won out, and he completed no more sculptures after 1970. He spent the rest of his life painting every day. We do not know who the model was, but Schwarz’s wife Lena figures in a huge number of his paintings.
This large portrait (oil on board 120cm x 120cm) was exhibited at the October 2015 exhibition at the M1 Gallery in Greenwich. It is a very fine picture and unusual for Schwarz in that it uses deep blues and purples. On the reverse is the name "Jerome". The backdrop is clearly Greenwich and it was hoped that exhibiting it in Greenwich would bring forward information about the sitter.
The M1 Gallery mounted a social media campaign to gain more information and BBC "London Live" TV ran a feature on the subject, but to no avail. However, now Jerome has been found. He stumbled on the TV clip and contacted the gallery. BBC "London Live" has now run another feature interviewing him and Peter McAllister of M1 Gallery. This may be viewed on the gallery website www.M1fineart.com or at https://youtu.be/_W9gogDG7Ok
Jerome Senn became a close friend of Schwarz in the mid-1970s and remained so until Schwarz's death in 2003. Schwarz painted him in his studio, and added the background afterwards. The choice of palette may reflect the fact that, at the time, Jerome was going through a difficult relationship breakdown.
Schwarz had a cottage in the Somerset village of Stogursey where he and his wife Lena made many friends, many of whom he painted. In October the village held an arts festival and the opening event was a celebration of Schwarz and his work. Paul Upton gave a talk outlining Schwarz's life and work illustrated with images of his paintings, notably of Stogursey residents. Many of the subjects were present and were able to recount anecdotes about Schwarz. In the audience were Lady Gass DCVO and Alan Mowlem, whose portraits are in the Museum of Somerset, Lisa Dunwood (primary school teacher) whose portrait is at Girton College Cambridge, and Rt Rev George Cassidy who at the time of painting was Archdeacon at St Pauls Cathedral.