Cliff Holden, original photograph by Bryan Long

Cliff Holden

Documents: 1999

WORK IN PROGRESS

Chapter 3 - The Stockholm Exhibition

Mead, Creffield, Richmond and I showed at the Parsons Gallery in December 1951. A young Swedish painter called Torsten Renquist came to view this exhibition and he invited the four of us to exhibit at the Gummersons Gallery in Stockholm the following Spring. The exhibition was given the title 'Four Englishmen' and it was open to the public for one month, from April until May, in 1952.

The exhibition was reported in the English press in a way which suggested that we were making a great deal of money. In fact we made more money by exhibiting the car which we arrived in than by exhibiting our paintings. We had broken down on the journey and when we arrived, with the car running on only three cylinders and covered in mud, we went to a garage to have it reapaired. The car was a 1934 Austin and it struck the garage owner as being so unusual that he put it in his showroom window for two weeks with spotlights on it. This caused such a spectacle that the police had to move on the crowds who came to look at it. The garage owner paid us 150 Swedish Crowns a day for using the vehicle to advertise his business and this was a sum of money which was worth having in those days. Here is an article which was written for the Daily Express just after the exhibition had closed (Tuesday, 6th May, 1952).

'Three artists in old taxi make a city sit up'

Three hard-up London artists have brought 85 of their paintings to Stockholm in a 1934 taxi which they paid for by going hop-picking. And now the Swedish critics can hardly find enough adjectives to praise their work.
The artists - 27-year-old Dorothy Mead; Dennis Creffield; and Cliff Holden, 33 - call themselves the remnants of the Borough school of painting, which used to flourish at the Elephant and Castle. In Britain they "exhibited" pictures on Thames lighters, on the Embankment, and on South London rooftops.
Now fashionable crowds go to see their work in a de luxe private gallery in Stockholm's Park-lane. And their pictures are fetching 10 to 90 each.
Which is quite a change from the days when Dorothy worked as an usherette, Dennis Creffield as a railway porter, and Cliff Holden as boxer, fisherman, farmhand and navvy. The British Ambassador, Mr. Roger Stevens, has visited their exhibition in Stockholm. And the Swedish Press says things like this:- "These painters represent a phalanx of the very young." ... "their expressionism rests on classical as well as volcanic bases." ... And, more simply: "We should be thankful they have come here."
Holden said today: "We are striving after new art forms. Dozens of sketches often go into one picture. It's hard work. That's why we don't teach or take office work to make ends meet, like most needy artists. We need all our creative and spiritual resources for painting. But we are sometimes driven to manual labour. It's less tiring than brain work. All we want now is someone to give us a name, like Cubists or Existentialists. We think we have got something original."
And the Swedes think so too.

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On the whole we got very good critics, but we sold nothing. At that time critical opinion and the artists were oriented towards the School of Paris. The extraordinary thing was that Torsten Renquist tried to change this flow and it was most extraordinary that he chose us when his orientation and stimulus came, not from the actual works, but from reproductions of Nash, Sutherland and all those painters stemming from that third-rate master Samuel Palmer. It was a kind of conspiracy between Sir Kenneth Clark and Herbert Read to resurrect this minor painter to justify interest in the detail of nature plus a kind of romantic symbolism which was supposed to be characteristic of English painting. Although the Stockholm critics were positive, nevertheless they had very little understanding of our paintings and they had, of course, never heard of David Bomberg.

They made connections with our work to Turner, of course, and Henry Moore because we dealt with figures and to Monet because we had several paintings of cathedrals. With Turner it was because we exhibited several London landscapes. They even referred to Helen Scherfbeck, which I think was largely because we were making drawings in charcoal. One critic related us to Montecelli - a painter that I had never heard of at that time - and it was many years before I came across his work in relation to Delacroix and Van Gogh. In fact Van Gogh said: "I sometimes think I am really continuing that man."

With the best intentions, Renquist wrote a piece for the catalogue in Swedish. He did not check with us first and so it was full of mistakes from beginning to end. But I could not read it I was unaware of what it contained and, in my enthusiasm, I rather naively sent a copy to Bomberg, thinking - and this is the naive part - that it would please him that we were continuing the activity and spreading his ideas abroad. Apparently Bomberg had it translated immediately and was furious because it seemed to him to say that he was an old man no longer active in painting. He wrote me a letter in which he said that we were not the only ones going forward with the ideas that he taught and because of this catalogue introduction and what it contained, he never wanted to see me or speak to me again.

It was only when I had this catalogue introduction translated for myself, some 25 years later, that I began to understand why he had reacted in this way. I have marked the translation to indicate where the mistakes are.

'Four Englishmen' by Torsten Renquist, 1952

The conception 'pure art' exists in England too. But the works which are presented under that designation differ considerably from Parisian works of the same name; 'outlawed' additions such as emotionalism and illustration are apparent in England even in radical non-figurative work, and one would be inclined to regard the designation 'pure art' as unnecessary and quite misplaced, if it were not that the theory in question had shown itself to be a particularly strong motive force. The literary or illustrative element in pictorial art has been considered traditionally in England as an asset rather than as an impurity to be avoided, and few artists there have worked from the conception that art is one of the sciences. The history of art in England, as well as the present situation, offers many examples of poets who paint and draw, and abstracts look back to Klee and Kandinsky in preference to a purist like Mondrian.

English painting has often, and with some justice, been accused of being dull, colourless and watery. Oil painting suffers from an overwhelming tradition of watercolours, and artistry in its entirety seems to be subjected to a kind of gentleman like attitude, in which exaggeration is bad taste and understatement the accepted rule.

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In any case, as far as understatement is concerned, the vigorous painting which is now being presented to the Swedish public is an exception, but yet typically English in its lyricism and closeness to nature, in spite of everything.

These four young painters regard themselves as representatives of a realistic striving in the spirit of pure art, but are marked by a Gallic-schooled self-criticism as full-blooded romantics. What they are will probably be difficult to decide, especially as the descriptions are altogether too vague, but their realistic pretensions come into a new light and, so I believe, are explained, if one compares them with the older generation Sutherland, Moore and others, who in the cultural activity in London after the war monopolized the slogan 'Romantic-renaissance'. For the older generation's romanticism is of a half surrealist allegorical kind and, in comparison with this, the pictures exhibited here appear as direct nature impressions, realism although they are, pictures of dusk and Rembrandt light.

Peter Richmond, Dennis Creffield, Dorothy Mead and Cliff Holden studied under the old painter David Bomberg,1 a man who, in his time,2 stood near to the Vorticists and Wyndam Lewis,3 a futurist inspired movement,4 which shocked London in the Twenties5 with all kinds of work and publications.

Bomberg was, moreover, one of the founders of the then well known group of the Thirties,6 the London Group, which was the equivalent of our Colour and Form, in other respects besides its organising shape. He gradually abandoned his earlier, severe painting for a titanic landscape style, wrote penetrating manifestoes7 and became a teacher at the Borough Polytechnic in London, where he developed his panorama programme in more detail,8 the fruits of which can be studied in the works now on exhibition.

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[CLIFF'S COMMENTS]

'old' painter'; it was not necessary to say this. It would have been better to say 'their master,' as the relationship was one of master to student.
'in his time'; this makes it sound as if he was already dead. It would have been much better to have given dates, say between 1914 and 1920.
'stood near to the Vorticists'; Bomberg always rejected the Vortocists's appeals for him to participate in their exhibitions. He quarreled with Wyndham Lewis, the writer and theoretician of the group, and then Bomberg and Lewis had no further contact with each other until 1949.
'futurist inspired movement'; the Vorticists were not a futurist inspired movement. They were a development of cubism.
'shocked the London of the Twenties'; the Vorticists shocked London not during the Twenties but, rather, before the Twenties.
'of the Thirties'; the London Group was in fact founded in 1914, by Bomberg and others, as a reaction to the New English Art Club and the Royal Academy. The group was well known in the Thirties but it was well known from the start.
'wrote penetrating manifestoes'; this is confusing because Bomberg actually wrote a quantity of philosophical and poetical notes whuch became known after his death as 'The Bomberg Papers.' He did not write any 'penetrating manifestoes.' These were mostly written by Cliff Holden and edited by Bomberg and the members of the Borough Group.
'panorama programme'; although Bomberg himself painted a large number of landscapes, his teaching had not only to do with the landscape but also with the human figure and the still life. The approach to all subject matter was oriented towards the working out of ideas in relation to what Bomberg termed 'the spirit in the mass'.

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Bomberg gathered a good many pupils around him9 in the course of the time; they exhibited annually under the name the Borough Group, and achieved a certain position in the art life of London. The group split up however,10 Bomberg did not appear so much as time went by,11 and today these four artists remain, forming a very homogeneous group, which works and exhibits together.

A clue to why Renquist chose us to show in Sweden when he himself was in search of the Englishness of English painting, came in a statement which he wrote some months later when he said that our exhibition was the most 'Scandinaviska' he had seen in London. What he really meant was that we had affinities with the Swedish painter Evert Lundquist. After the exhibition Lundquist wrote to us and invited Dorothy Mead and I to an English tea. He was very English oriented, although his background in painting was French oriented. When I finally came to his studio and saw his paintings, it was a revelation to me. Here was a man working exactly parallel with our intentions. It was just like two scientific events taking place in different countries of the world at the same time without contact but reaching the same conclusions.

The effect of Lundquist's paintings on me was so powerful that I cried. I think this was partly because I realized that he had achieved something of what we were striving to do, but it was also a relief to realize that he was doing something different to Bomberg and different to what we had achieved and it was interesting to compare the different forms of engagement and it served to prove and confirm what I already knew - the shallowness of Auerbach's academic image concealed by his thick paint antics.

I had an ambition to bring Bomberg and Lundquist together, but this never came about due to Bomberg residing in Spain up to his death. I tried desperately to introduce Lundquist to London. Swedish government policy was not, like in England, geared to exporting art. Art in Sweden was a purely domestic matter. It took me nine years before I managed to get Lundquist an exhibition at the Beaux Arts Gallery.

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[CLIFF'S COMMENTS]

'a good many pupils around him'; apart from Dorothy Mead and Edna Mann and the members of his family and Bomberg's students at the Architectural association, most students were recruited by Cliff Holden and Dorothy Mead (from other art schools and the pubs of Soho). The Borough Group was formed in 1946 following discussions between Cliff Holden and Bomberg, which had begun in 1944. There were students who attended Bomberg's regular classes at the Borough Polytecnic, but they took no part in the creation and activities of the Borough Group.
10  'the group split up'; the Borough Group split up because of disagreements as to future policy and direction. Creffield, Holden, Mead and Richmond decided to continue exhibiting together. Their exhibition at the Parson's Gallery in London was seen by the Swedish artists Torsten Renquist who arranged an exhibition in Stockholm. He wrote the foreword to the catalogue in Swedish without reference to the artists concerned and they were therefore ignorant of the content of this text. Holden sent a copy of the catalogue to Bomberg expecting him to be pleased with their continuing activity in furthering his ideas. However Bomberg was so insulted when he read a translation of it that he wrote to Holden forbidding him to have any further contact. This was a terrible tragedy for Holden as he was unable to meet with Bomberg and explain the situation before Bomberg's death in 1957. Holden did not have the translation made (which is printed above) until some twenty years later and it was only then that he realized how he had unwittingly caused his master such offence
11  'did not appear as time went by'; this gives the impression that Bomberg was old and inactive. This is simply not true. After the Borough Group disbanded, he not only organized the formation of another group but he also made some of his finest paintings. In the last two years of his life he did some charcoal drawings which were unlike anything he had done before, but which can be related to the kind of work which had evolved within the Borough Group. This demonstrated Bomberg's belief that the relationship of master and student was a two way traffic. This has not been observed by the critics and historians.

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After the exhibition in Stockholm, when all the dinners and cocktail parties were over, I was reduced to working as a kitchen porter at the Berns Salonger, which was a restaurant in Stockholm famous for its connection with August Strindberg. I was paid 2 shillings an hour and the same job in the Lyons Corner House back home would have paid 2 shillings and six pence. After some months doing various odd jobs, Dorothy and I had enough money to travel to Spain. We spent two years in the south of Spain at Almuneca, Torrox, Ronda, Gibraltar, Alcala de los Gazules and other places. While I was in Spain with Dorothy I was shocked to receive the letter from Bomberg in which he reacted to Torsten Renquist's catalogue introduction. It was this letter which ended our relationship.

Clifford Holden,

For things said and done and for behaviour to myself and Lilian, it is best as I said at the time there shall be no more friendship with you or with the others that supported you. And this is the reason why I have not replied to your previous letter.
The world is still large enough to move about in without wishing to hurt one another - and with regards to writing I would rather you did not and this goes also for your offer to try and present my work in Stockholm.
It is unfortunate that it should be this way - and that this should be the nature of the conflict between the young and the not so young - the pupils and the master.
I am glad you have both benefited from the life and climate of Spain - you both had a very good training and I have no doubt it will stand you in good stead.
The road to art is a long and hard one but it has its compensations and the measure of a good artist is in his work - no words can either embellish or detract - they may falsify as is the prevalent practice - but time and events are the eventual crucible.
The old painter who did not appear so much as time went by - to the two of the four artists who thought and published that they were the sole remaining inheritors of the approach to mass taught by me - but in actual fact being practised quite richly and effectively by a number of young and gifted personalities.
I will send the Palleten to the address in Manchester you gave in your letter.

David Bomberg

When Dorothy and I were living at Torrox, Peter and Nora Richmond came to live in a house nearby. For several months the four of us continued to paint together and then later, during the summer of 1953, Creffield, Oxlade and Scott came to visit us from London.

In 1954 Dorothy and I left for England and I hoped that I would be able to meet Bomberg in London to have a discussion and sort out our problems and misunderstandings. However, I had no money for petrol and an old car which kept breaking down so that we both had to work our way back, taking odd jobs as we could find them. The journey from Spain to London took us three months. When we arrived back in London we found that Bomberg and Lilian had left for Spain in February to found a school of painting in Ronda. I did not have the possibility to go back to Ronda myself and I was forced to take on more casual work in order to survive and to pay back some of the money I had borrowed during my stay in Spain. The jobs were many and varied, for example, night porter at Victoria Station (and then painting during the day), or night work at Walls Ice Cream factory making sausages, or a day job building up the

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embankment to the River Thames at Kew Gardens. Other opportunities to show my work included various exhibitions of graphic art, for example, at the Stockport Coffee Bar in Nottinghill Gate, and at Liberties on Regent Street.

While Dorothy and I had been in Spain, Bomberg had, with the help of his family and several students, created another group which they called the Borough Bottega. (Incidentally, at the winding up of the Borough Group we had agreed never to use the name Borough Group again.) The Borough Bottega was formed in 1953 and continued to be active for two years until the last exhibition which was held at Walker's Galleries (118 New Bond Street) in 1955 (21st March - 2nd April). By this time Bomberg and Lilian had been out of the country for over a year. The catalogue gives the names of the artists who participated as follows; David Bomberg, Lilian Holt, Dinora Mendelson, Leslie Marr, Richard Michelmore, Garth Scott, Roy Oxlade, Cecil Bailey and Anthony Hatwell. Here is the Foreword which was printed with the catalogue for that exhibition.

'Foreword'

The name Borough Bottega derives from the 15th century Italian 'bottega' - the workshop in which the apprentice painters learnt their art at the hands of a master - and the Polytechnic, S.E.1. where David Bomberg, the group's founder, was teaching from 1945 to 1953.

The Bottega is made up of painters, sculptors, and architects, who were originally students of David Bomberg at the Borough Polytechnic, and who have remained together to practise their individual assessment of mass in representation of form, whether in landscape, architecture, or working from life. They reject the superficial representation of appearances which goes by the name of, and is often mistaken for 'Realism', experimenting on the basis that all experience is inter-related, and forms part of the cosmic unity and can be interpreted neither in terms of unrelated parts, nor patterns of attractive, decorative blocks of colour. If one becomes obsessed with these one cannot hope to reveal the underlying forces which govern the earth and all thereupon.

The foundation of any work is an abstract, and this gradually evolves towards expression of thought and feeling. It succeeds as an abstract only insofar as it is able to convey thought and feeling, and by a juxtaposition of forms, becomes articulate.

David Bomberg himself makes acknowledgment to Cezanne, the Impressionists and the Cubists, all of whom helped to the realization of an idiom by which to render mass, the organic unity.

During the meetings which were held during the formation of the Borough Bottega many lies were told about me to smear my name and my activities. We heard about what was happening at the time from a letter which Dennis Creffield sent to us (this was shortly before he came out to Spain to join us, accompanied by Garth Scott and Roy Oxlade).

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2 Church Hill,
Charing Heath,
Ashford, Kent.

Sunday 5th July 1953

Dear Cliff and Dorothy,

Your letter was forwarded on here to me where I am having severe backache in the strawberry fields. Thank you very much for it. Garth and Roy are also both here.
I can tell you some more about the exhibition. It appears Bomberg's idea is to form another group. At the mention of the word Kossof and Auerbach have pulled out and will not exhibit, the individual soul tack. Leslie says he has no vocation in painting. Dinora and Lilian say they have had a lot of unhappiness before. Len Missen is considered as a possible member and exhibitor but does not appear to have been consulted about his views. So everything is in abeyance until their next meeting. They have been told a history of the Borough Group and the Parsons incident and Michelmore read aloud Bomberg's letter to you and a translation of Torsten's introduction which he considers an attack upon himself as it calls him old and implying that he is finished. This introduction he considers your work. I was furious at the blatant attempt to alienate these younger people against us and wonder if it forbodes more militant attacks in the future. They have finally decided to call the exhibition 'Borough '53'?

Now about our trip. I have so many things to ask but first I must say that Roy is coming with us, that we hope to arrive during the first week in August and stay for about three months. First what is the weather like? Does one need lots of blankets and things like overcoats and warm clothes? Are sandals cheap in Spain and consequently would it be better to buy them there than here? Are there any articles which one can bring and sell at a profit? Viz. rubber goods? Do you think hammocks are a good idea for beds? You mentioned in an earlier letter a folding spade ditto bicycle and a parachute? What of these things now? Does one need a lamp? I shall no doubt think of more questions and will write them as they appear.

I see there are two talks on the third programme this week of Ludwig Wittengenstein's book 'Philosophical Investigations' which has just been published here, is this the book you wrote about 'Logic etc.'? In any case I will try to get it and bring it with me.

Due no doubt to the opening paragraph of your letter I went to bed and had a bad nightmare in which thre people near me were murdered and I came to a five barred gate where there was an emaciated dog and a decomposing woman who as I passed through gave me a book and told me to read it. Which all sounds rather silly but it unsettled me all day even though the sun was shining.

I was very pleased to read that 'D. is O.K.' upon which happy thing I send all greetings and wishes to both of you.

Dennis

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Arising from the attacks made against me in the meetings which Dennis refers to, I have suffered for the rest of my life by innuendoes, lies, half-truths and omissions in all the catalogues, books and articles that have been written about Bomberg. Even the statements that were written for the early Borough Group exhibitions were later to become attributed to Bomberg and quoted as if they represented a personal statement by him.

When Dennis was with us in Spain he recieved a letter from Bomberg which was a response to his request to become a member of the Borough Bottega. This letter also gives Bomberg's view on what had caused the Borough Group to disband.

30 Steeles Road,
London NW3

28th Nov. 1953

Dear Dennis Creffield,

In reply to your letter of the 24th of Nov. I am not a member of the Bottega - I am Honorary Life Member - and will send work to all exhibitions - I do not vote - but at the Council Meetings I attend I make what I believe to be constructive suggestions and have helped to form the rules of the constitution.

Regarding your wish to join the Bottega the constitution rule is that for three years you would need to be a guest exhibitor - and the members of the Council would then need to invite you for three years in succession. Then you would be made an Associate Member. Another three years of support of the Bottega exhibitions would make you a full member with a vote. To be a member of the Council there would need be a vacancy on the Council before the Council could vote in one to fill it from the body of the full membership. I shall give the Hon. Secretary who is Michelmore your letter and he will put your request on the agenda of the forthcoming meeting. There is no other way of bringing up the matter and we will write to you accordingly after the meeting.

I was among the others of the London Group selecting for the current show (which closed today) and voted for the two works each of you sent in - in case one was made a doubtful and I expected that the hanging committee would select these 'Doubtfuls' for exhibition. The fact that they did not shows the character of the opposition - which I interpret as that of Fear. This Fear, in my view, shows the work to be more understood than when examples of each of you were hung in the previous years when the unorthodoxy was not comprehended as a challenge. This London Group exhibition would have had a more vital impact on the critique had the hanging committee had the courage to hang the contributions of all you sent. Patrick Heron and Kenneth Martin endeavoured to get some of your works back on to the selecting table for reassessment. Both of Holden's paintings were brought back - but the voting remained the same one out one doubtful. I could not understand this endeavour unless it was a token that any change from the favoured idioms would be welcome.

Though you did not understand the nature of the loyalty necessary to succeed against the favoured idioms - and this, too, was underestimated by all who took part in the Parsons

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Gallery and the Stockholm shows - the older member had had a sufficiency of life experience to comprehend the struggle for survival. It was evident to me that the mishandling I was taking, both from my Artist Colleagues and from yourselves - from the first I knew, how well integrated we had to be to succeed in rowing this boat at all - but if in this boat some members only thought of themselves and discredited the rowing of the others - those others were going to be very displeased - and so it was that I got the scouldings from those who were rowing for all and more from those rowing for themselves - on this followed the annulment of the Borough Group.

The task we had undertaken was one that can only be done by a Team - in a team spirit. Individualism is meant for the painting. All have different temperaments, assessments, oulooks and imaginations, and all contribute in their own way to an expansion in our approach to mass. This mingling of personalities with a specific aim would have brought us out on top in a short period following our foundation if the team spirit had been maintained rather than undermined.

This was the meaning of the loyalties - but Oxlade adopted a most impregnable front and unflinching attitude in supporting your side of the idiom - I am still at a loss to explain it - other than by what is the obvious explanation.

It so happens as the present constitution of the Bottega shows that those most discriminated against by Cliff Holden have proved their loyal support both to the idiom and to the source and in face of a multitude of devastating family relationships.

Please tell Cliff Holden I received his letter and that I could only repeat what I said in my letter of April last to which he refers to remind me. Two days after I received 'Paletten' I packed it and properly addressed it to his mother E.F. Holden, Lindow Common, Wilmslow, Manchester. I wrote on the package in case it was undelivered the name of Clifford Holden, Lista de Correos, Almunecar, Granada, Espana. the post office weighed and stamped it. It is most unfortunate that this package did not reach Mrs. Holden. I cannot see what I could have done than other than was asked - except putting his name and address as the sender instead of mine. I trust however it may turn up. I shall make another enquiry at the post office giving the particulars.

Yours sincerely,
David Bomberg

Dennis Creffield
Azucarera Larios,
Torrox, Malaga, Spain

P.S. I know the members are in favour of a strong presentation and with this in view it is on the agenda that Oxlade be given the opprtunity of makng his position clear once again. If there should be no further objection to the title of the group - it is likely he will rejoin the group where he broke off. The members are also determined to indentify the source of the idiom and to maintain this purpose any member having a one-man show must declare themselves members of the Borough Bottega.

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P.P.S. This year besides my own three new paintings the London Group hung - Diana, Dinora, Leslie and Lilian - though the paintings did not get through - we are sorry that Diana's Nocturne Paris canvas 28x36 inches did not get the sufficient votes

At this time a lot of the accusations against me of various kinds were made by Gus Metzger. He was a brilliant student whom I had introduced to Bomberg together with his brother Max, in 1945, but they always refused to join the Borough Group, preferring to be independent. Two months after Bomberg died, I happened to meet Gus Metzger by chance in Piccadilly and I took hold of him by the ear and dragged him to a lawyer in Burlington Street. There he signed an affidavit in which he retracted all the things that he had said about me and agreed that at the time he was lying. For the record, here is the wording of that document.

London
30th October 1957

I, the undersigned, would like to state that at the meeting which formed the Borough Bottega, I made accusations and statements against the character and intentions of Cliff Holden which had no foundation in truth.

Contrary to what I said Cliff Holden took no part in excluding me from the exhibition at the Parson's Gallery in 1951. The guilty parties who spoke against me on this occasion were Peter Richmond, Dennis Creffield and Dorothy Mead.

On that occasion, as at all other times, Cliff Holden has consistently encouraged me in my work as a painter, and at all times endeavoured to persuade me to participate in the activities of the Borough Group. Even in the above situation he merely bowed to the majority view that my work was not of a sufficiently unique or professional character to benefit that exhibition.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for the harm caused by myself on this occasion to the character and integrity of Cliff Holden.

(This was signed by Gustav Metzger in my presence and he acknowledged that the statement was true. This 30th day of October 1957. Signed: Stephen Young, Solicitor. 2 Old Burlington St., London W1)

In May 1957, three months before Bomberg died, he gave Peter Richmond the authority to write a series of letters inviting past members of the Borough Group and the Borough Bottega Group to attend a summer school in Ronda. Dorothy Mead and Dennis Creffield were both invited and so one can see that Bomberg was striving for a reconciliation. Of the four of us who had taken part in the Stockholm exhibition in 1952, Peter Richmond had already been forgiven and now Bomberg hoped to bring the others back into the fold. What is extraordinary to me is that Bomberg had included Edna Mann in the list of those to be invited despite the fact that he forced her to resign from the Borough Group when she had a baby. Here is the letter which was sent to her.

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Lista de Correos,
Ronda, Provincia de Malaga, Spain

29th May 1957

Dear Edna,

Mr. Bomberg is recovering from an illness. Not having over much strength and that employed on other things that he only can do, he asks me to send out announcements and invitations to a Summer School which will be held in Ronda this year. He hopes you will find a way to come.
He does not believe that anyone who is a painter can give up painting for good. Consequently that you have come back to it, or will do so. (This is assuming you ever gave it up.)
His conception of the Borough Idea makes necessary this reunion for practice, criticism and discussion again. Everyone took experience from the Borough to use in individual directions. After a period of ploughing the furrows there should be a reassembly, where the common fund of vision and experience is enriched with the results of individual research and maturity. Then with new and fresh stimulus each returns to his or her private field. In this way of cycles coming together and dispersion, individual vision will grow to maturity without losing the standards and confidence of profession fostered at the Borough.
Conditions here in Ronda make this the ideal time and place for the first reunion in practice after a long enough interval of seperation since the Borough Class closed. The site is full of natural and architectural extraordinariness and facilities for assembling and painting are as good as can be desired. A large studio is available in a central position for base and headquarters. Camp beds can be brought or hammocks. (There is a partitioned piece for the ladies.) Food will be supplied from a common pot and a caretaker will look after practicalities. Subjects lie on the doorstep and nothing need interfere with each day deing given to painting and drawing. Work will be assembled and exhibited each Saturday afternoon. Bomberg will attend for tuition advice, criticism and with emulation and discussion the fruitful spirit of the Borough will be reborn at once and confident vision and sense of purpose regained to pursue our more solitary ways.
There is no charge for the course or tuition fees. There is no fixed date, members will decide among themselves the time most can come. Contact Richard Michelmore (16, Garrick Close, Walton-on-Thames) or Dennis Creffield (222, Lee High Road, Lewisham, S.E.13) for the dates that are best.
This is an important event; see if you can find a way to leave the children and Don for a few weeks and join the band. The way is probably by ship to Gibraltar, but a bus to bring everybody will be found if it can be.
Besides members of the Borough Bottega, those Mr. Bomberg believes shoulld be here are: Peter Arnold, Dennis Creffield, Gus Metzger, Dorothy Mead, Dorothy Missen, Leslie Marr, David Scott, Garth Scott, John Berger, yourself, Nora and myself and two other men who have already been here. All good wishes and greetings to Don.

Peter Richmond

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In a similar letter which was sent to Dorothy Mead, Roy Oxlade was included in the list of artists who Bomberg wished to invite and, following the name of John Berger, it says in brackets, "as a painter rather than a critic." The letter then continues as follows.

Cliff is not on the list, nor Kossof nor Auerbach, since they have given evidence of a determination to make their way alone.

The plan is to avoid making practical demands on the Bombergs unnecessarily and to avoid the too close personal relations that lead to friction, that a base and headquarters is made of a large studio which Nora and I have in a central position, about a quarter of a mile from Bomberg's home.

Bomberg did not seem to understand how much I wanted to be reconciled with him. Far from rejecting him and his teaching, I was loyal to him and I have remained so all my life. However when, in 1956, I was invited back to Sweden to exhibit my paintings in a one-man show, I had no idea that this chapter of my life was over and that I would never meet David Bomberg again. With the work I took with me to Sweden I mounted two exhibitions, one in Stockholm and one in Gothenburg. The Stockholm one was a success but the Gothenburg one failed. It had not failed critically but economically, so I was still left in my usual situation of being in debt and having no money. At the same time I met my wife, Lisa Grönwall, who was a textile designer using a small studio in collaboration with a colleague, Maj Nilsson.

(Page 39)
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[Page last updated: 11th January 2006]

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