Carel Victor Morlais Weight, CH, CBE, RA (10 September 1908 – 13 August 1997) was an English painter.[1][2] The Friends is a 1968's painting by Weight at the Tate. The artist wrote of this work: 'the idea of the picture came from a visit to the flat of two lesbians, who lived in a rather dreary part of South London. The general atmosphere affected me; the feeling of loneliness of these two in rather squalid surroundings, rather fascinated me. The figures in my picture are in no way realistic portraits of these two people. They are entirely figments of my imagination. On the other hand, I have used the setting which is a realistic transcription of my own sitting room and the view of the little suburban houses through the window'.

Weight was born in Paddington in 1908. His father was a bank cashier and his mother, who was of Swedish and German descent, was a chiropodist.[3] He studied at the Hammersmith School of Art from 1928 to 1930. At Hammersmith he met Ruskin Spear, who became a lifelong friend. At Goldsmiths College, between 1931 and 1933, Weight developed his preference for imaginative compositions.[3] Teaching at the Beckenham School of Art allowed Weight to support himself throughout the 1930s. His first solo exhibition was held in the Cooling Gallery in 1933 and he later exhibited in some major London galleries and throughout the United Kingdom. It was at Goldsmith's that Weight met his future wife, the artist Helen Roeder. They were together for 60 years before they married in 1990.[4] During the Second World War, Weight served with the Royal Engineers and the Army Education Corps. As an Official War Artist in 1945, he worked in Austria, Greece and Italy. Weight wrote to the War Artists' Advisory Committee, WAAC, in December 1939 seeking work as a war artist. A number of commissions were discussed and eventually, in March 1942, WAAC purchased one picture from Weight. By then he had been called up and his time for painting was restricted.[5] In July 1942 Weight's painting of a zebra that escaped from London Zoo during an air raid was purchased, but his commanding officer would not release him for further WAAC commissions. It was not until the spring of 1945, after Albert Richards had been killed, that WAAC could offer Weight a full-time post.[5] Weight landed in Naples in March 1945 and travelled to Rome, Perugia, Verona, Florence and reached Ravenna in October that year. During November and December 1945 Weight visited Vienna, Rome and Florence and arrived in Athens in February 1946.[6] In Greece and Italy he depicted the immediate aftermath of the War and the role of the British Army in working to restore civil society after the conflict.[7] In 1947, Weight began teaching at the Royal College of Art, and was professor of painting there from 1957.[8] He retired in 1973. He was elected to the Royal Academy in April 1965, and senior R.A. in 1984.[9]

Carel Weight by Carel Weight oil on canvas, 1930 23 7/8 in. x 20 in. (607 mm x 508 mm) Purchased, 1982 Primary Collection NPG 5522

Carel Weight by Barry Marsden bromide fibre print, 1988 13 7/8 in. x 9 3/8 in. (352 mm x 237 mm) Purchased, 1992 Photographs Collection NPG x39373

The Friends

Miss Orovida Pissarro', Carel Weight, 1956 | Tate
Miss Orovida Pissarro Carel Victor Morlais Weight (1908–1997) Tate

Carel Weight, 1957 (With images) | Carel, Art, Art uk
Miss Orovida Pissarro Carel Victor Morlais Weight (1908–1997) The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

Weight painted a number of acclaimed portraits, most notably one of Orovida Camille Pissarro, but also of less famous individuals.[10] Many of his paintings showed suburban settings in which unexpected human dramas occurred, some of them humorous and some frightening. Each painting's location was chosen specifically for its abstract structure; the locations were usually actual places, but the figures were imagined and "gr[e]w under the brush".[11] Weight wrote that his art was "concerned with such things as anger, love, hate, fear and loneliness", and said, "for me the acid test of a painting is: will the ordinary chap get anything out of this?"[11] He was prolific, and typically painted 50 paintings in a year.[12] Weight was an instructor, mentor and good friend to John Bratby and Jean Cooke.[13][14] Weight died on 13 August 1997 at the age of 88. Works by Weight are owned by the Tate Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Imperial War Museum and feature in the United Kingdom Government Art Collection. David Bowie bought and owned Carel Weight's Laertes (1979) as part of his private collection.[15] Keith Waterhouse uses the strand of sinister suburbia in Weight's work as a metaphor for the narrator's mistress in Waterhouse's 1988 novel "Our Song".

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