b. 1910, Dorking, Surrey, England
d. 1988, London, England
Julian Trevelyan, the nephew of G. M. Trevelyan, the British historian, studied English at Cambridge University where, through his friendship with Humphrey Jennings, he began to study French painting, particularly the work of André Masson. While highly educated, Trevelyan never went to art school and so remained free of academic artistic inhibitions. His true visual education came about haphazardly, from watching first hand the great contemporary masters in Paris. These included Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and Alexander Calder, as well as a clutch of minor names encountered at S.W. Hayter’s renowned Atelier 17, the etching studio in Paris where Trevelyan studied in 1931.
In 1932, Trevelyan exhibited at the Bloomsbury Gallery and later at London galleries including the Lefevre, Zwemmer and, notably, the Tate. In 1936, his work was included in the London International Surrealist Exhibition and subsequently in many group shows in Britain and abroad. In 1935, Trevelyan established his studio in Hammersmith, London. In 1937 and 1938 Trevelyan was involved with Tom Harrisson’s Mass Observation, which influenced his choice of industrial landscape as a focus subject. During the war Trevelyan worked as a camouflage officer.
Trevelyan was a member of the English Surrealist Group from1937–1938, and of the London Group from1948–1963. He taught at Chelsea School of Art for a decade (1950–1960), and from 1955–1963 was a Tutor in Etching at the Royal College of Art. He published a number of important etching suites and several books. Initially, his work displayed a wide range of styles, from Figurative Realism to Surrealist themes. One biographer compared Trevelyan’s dichotomous style to Jekyll and Hyde; the artist’s accessible Neo-Romantic imagery contrasted with disquieting surreal content. After the war, his admiration for Pierre Bonnard produced a looser painting technique but this later changed to a more linear style with heavy outlines and firm, flat areas of strong color.
Today, Trevelyan’s work can be found in the collections of the Royal Academy of Arts, the Tate Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery, London; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Indianapolis Museum of Art; and the Seattle Art Museum.