The Lambeth Walk (1939-1949) and Britain by the Sea (1961) are considered NMK’s masterpieces. These, his largest canvases, were painted in the early part of his career.
Taking its theme from a popular English song of the 1930s, The Lambeth Walk was an art school project, but was not finished until the artist came back from the Army after the Second World War. This picture was reproduced on the front cover of the prestigious Parisian journal La Revue Moderne des Arts et de la Vie. It was well received when exhibited for the first time in the early 1950s, praised as a ‘highly successful “tour de force”’, and for its ‘Zola-esque detail’ and ‘raffish gaiety’.
The monumental mannered masterpiece Britain by the Sea is stylistically very different from NMK’s seaside-themed output of the 1980s. It is not naturalistic and freely handled like the beach scenes that he painted towards the end of his life, when he returned to the seaside theme, using colour photographs, snapped whilst on holiday in Eastbourne or Jersey. The resulting beach scenes, of people and/or boats, were much more informal, reflecting the artist’s interest in photography, both stills and 8mm ciné.