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"Dancing Cats" by Stanley Lench

Ldbth142 Dancing Cats 1949 B
Dancing Cats by Stanley Lench, 1949

This painting is an extraordinary piece of work. It is the first work that is encountered in the current Stanley Lench Scaling the Citadel: the Art of Stanley Lench, and not insignificantly. Lench painted this aged just 15, after studying art at evening class in the 1940s. Lench had an unconventional childhood; born in 1934, he remained in London during the Second World War, which had an impact on his schooling. Throughout his life he taught himself, learning about culture, art and artists through extensive reading and attending exhibitions. Lench particularly admired the Cubist work of Pablo Picasso and George Braques, and this inspiration is evident through the angular treatment of the dancing cats. Lench was an accomplished artist from a young age, winning a prize at his evening class for a painting he said was inspired by the work of Henri Matisse.

As well as having two successful exhibitions at Helen Lessore’s Beaux Arts Gallery in West London, Lench gained a place at Royal College of Art in the stained glass department where he studied from 1955-58. He sold a painting of Polish actress Pola Negri to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1958.

Despite his early artistic success, Stanley Lench suffered with mental ill health throughout his life, describing it as feeling like ‘the tide comes in and goes out… there’s just no balance.’ His depression affected his confidence, and he went through long periods of painting hardly anything at all. During a period of depression, Lench destroyed some of his art, and Dancing Cats was buried in his garden, later to be dug up and eventually given to Bethlem.