William Townsend

William Townsend

1909 - 1973

William Townsend’s landscapes of the 1930s and 1940s hold a central place in the British art world of the period and in debates about the relationship between Modernism and tradition. With Victor Pasmore and William Coldstream he sought to reinvigorate British landscape painting and did much to renew interest in rural and urban landscape painting in the 1940s and 1950s.

He studied under Tonks and Steer at the Slade between 1926-30, where he was awarded the Orpen Bursary and Steer Landscape Prize. He travelled extensively in Europe leading to first solo exhibition at the Bloomsbury Gallery in 1932. In the 1930s he became heavily involved in anti-fascist politics, exhibiting in anti-fascist exhibition with Grant, Nash, Moore and Gill. He served latterly during WWII in the Army Education Corps.

Post-war Townsend joined Victor Pasmore, William Coldstream, Claude Rogers and Lawrence Gowing at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts where he taught Michael Andrews, Euan Uglow and Victor Willing. Teaching at Camberwell 1945-1949, he followed Coldstream to the Slade where he was much concerned with the politics of art education. In later years he was highly influential in bringing in teachers to other areas than painting and sculpture, a post-graduate programme under his guidance being established in 1968. In 1957 he was appointed Senior Lecturer in Fine Arts at University College, London, elected Fellow in 1968 and appointed Professor of Fine Art. A prolific writer, Townsend also did occasional journalism on architecture and contemporary art.

He was internationally recognised as a spokesman for Canadian Art following numerous Canadian teaching appointments and lectures through the 1950s. In 1966 he was appointed Head of Painting at Banff School of Fine Arts and in 1970 Edited and co-authored ‘Canadian Art Today’.
Selected Journals were published 1976.

He had a retrospective exhibition, Tate Gallery, London 1976. A Townsend Symposium was held at Clare College, Cambridge 2005. His work is represented in many collections across the world.