Jean-Georges Simon – A Hungarian in Harrogate

These small, but interesting additions to Simon’s known output includes three paintings all made in the same year.  As well as illustrating the versatility of the painter, they also help to piece together an understanding of a significant point in his life, just after he married Patricia Frayling.

All dating from 1937, and likely from the couple’s honeymoon in the Ligurian Sea, the study of the French sailor is spontaneous and expressive, whilst the colourful and meticulous view of Rapallo compares to his other pastels of the period leading up to the Second World War. The sketch of the farmhouse has no location, and is simply entitled “French Sketch” – more finished than the other two, it possibly captures a poignant place from that holiday.

Jean-Georges Simon was born in Trieste in 1894, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was a cavalry officer in the First World War. Seeing few artistic prospects in a country ruined by war, and no longer attached to a cosmopolitan empire, he moved westwards. First to Switzerland, then to France and later to England. 

A major solo exhibition, held at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, was overshadowed by the coming of a Second World War. He later fled to England and took a studio on the Fulham Road. When German bombs began to fall on London in the autumn of 1940, Simon gratefully accepted the offer of a cottage in Harrogate. In the words of Robert Waterhouse this “was the start of another romance which lasted until Jansci’s death in 1968.” Though finding peace in this quaint and picturesque corner of England, his remaining years as a painter would pass on the periphery. He occasionally visited Paris and London, the cultural thoroughfares of his earlier years, where in different times he might have found a more convivial playground for his talents. 

He exhibited at the Redfern Gallery in 1945, and in Wakefield in 1948 and 1949. As well as Harrogate in 1966.

The twenty-first century has seen a resurgence of interest in Simon’s life. Robert Waterhouse has published frequently on the subject, including a monograph of 2005 and another book entitled “Their Safe Haven” (2018), which grapples with the gifted, often unrecognised Hungarian painters that settled in England after the rise of the National Socialists.  Such literary efforts were given a physical outlet in 2007, when a significant retrospective on the artist was held at the Ernst Museum in Budapest. Around the same time, the Jean-Georges Simon Foundation was established to build a comprehensive understanding of his life and work.

 

Title: French Sketch

Medium: Watercolour, body-colour on thin paper

Inscriptions: JGS. 37

Date: 1937

 

Provenance: Collection of Alfred A. Haley of Walton, Wakefield (Acquired from the artist)

Title: View of Rapallo

Medium: Body Colour on paper (laid on card)

Inscriptions: J.G. Simon |Rapallo| 37

Date: 1937

 

Provenance: Collection of Alfred A. Haley of Walton, Wakefield (Acquired from the artist)

 

French Sailor - Jean Georges-Simon

Title: French Sailor

Medium: Watercolour, charcoal on laid paper

Inscriptions: JGS. 37

Date: 1937

 

Provenance: Collection of Alfred A. Haley of Walton, Wakefield (Likely acquired from the artist)