Roman Wall, Verulamium
While Keith Grant was studying at the Royal College of Art, between 1955-58, he responded strongly to such Neo-Romantic painters as Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland. He was not only influenced by their styles, but also enthused by their interests, such as their fascination with the evocative historical traces of mankind in the British landscape. Additionally inspired by Jacquetta Hawkes’s highly original geological and archaeological history, A Land (1951), he visited Roman remains and Iron Age hill forts, and wrote a well-received thesis, entitled ‘Myths, Monuments and Men’.
Among the remains that Keith Grant visited were those of the Roman city of Verulamium, in St Albans, Hertfordshire. His visits resulted in both a group of landscape paintings and a mural for the Verulamium Museum, depicting artefacts recovered from
archaeological excavations. Unfortunately, the mural was dismantled and destroyed in about 1958, following a change of director at the museum, and even Keith himself has only partial photographic evidence of its appearance. However, the landscapes survive and well demonstrate his development, as is evidenced by the present work.
Roman Wall, Verulamium resulted from a sketching outing that Keith Grant made with his fellow student, Derek Hyatt, and was painted very early in 1959. Keith has written that ‘I am very fond of this particular painting since it marked a definitive progression of style’ (in an album of images of his early work known as the ‘Cathedral News Cuttings Book’). That progression of style was in part achieved through his engagement with the paintings of Paul Nash, and especially those that combine solid form and deep perspective with a strong sense of atmosphere, such as The Shore (1923, Leeds Art Gallery) and Pillar and Moon (1932-42, Tate).