Denys George Wells VPRBA, BEM

Denys George Wells VPRBA, BEM

1881 - 1973

Born in Bedford, 1881; Died in New Malden, Surrey, 1973

Painter in oils and watercolour.

Denys George Wells studied at the Slade School of Fine Art between 1897 and 1903 under Henry Tonks (1862-1937) and Philip Wilson Steer (1860-1942). Wells immediately continued his studies in Paris and on his return to London was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1906. Wells became the society's Vice-president in 1955 (VPRBA). Wells was involved in both world wars. During the First World War he joined the Artists Rifles as a commissioned officer, serving in France for the duration of the war. During the Second World War, too old for combat, he served as an air raid warden, services for which he was awarded the British Empire Medal for gallantry (BEM). In his role as air raid warden, Wells produced a series of drawings and watercolours that record the damage caused by enemy bombing raids. Wells continued to document the ruins and construction sites in and around London during the immediate post-war years. These works now provide us with a remarkable insight into the destruction of London's buildings during the war and also of the city's extraordinary efforts to rebuild.

Wells' oil paintings depict interior scenes, portraits and still-life subjects. Such domestic scenes are either empty of persons or capture women and children engaged everyday activities. Settings appear uncluttered and are calm and quiet in their mood. Although precise in their painting and composition, Wells' appears detached from these innocent scenes, unlike his still-life subjects where he produces a meticulous level of detail and control over his subject. Scenes contain delicately arranged fruit, ceramics and folded textiles and are reminiscent of Dutch vanitas paintings of the seventeenth century. Wells was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy, the Society of British Artists and the New English Art Club. He received one-man shows at the Mall Galleries (1972) and at the Medici Galleries (1986).

Wells is represented by a number of public collections including Sunderland Museum and Art Gallery, London Guildhall Art Gallery, Imperial War Museum, Museum of London and Palace of Westminster.

(Benjamin Angwin - September 2014)