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Abstract Composition (with string) (1936).  This painting by David Francis Butterfield is produced by using oil on board.





David Francis Butterfield

Abstract Composition (with string) (1936)


Oil On Board

This painting by David Francis Butterfield is typical of the abstract compositions for which he became well know and quite popular in the 1930s. In this particular composition I see influences of that particular era of Yorkshire artists, not that surprising as Butterfields' known associates were the likes of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Odd you might think then that in his hay-day, Leeds City Art Gallery rejected his work. Possibly the wheels of power just not getting it, or maybe the internal politics of the day. At least now this piece takes its rightful place in the gallery's collection.


Born in Bradford. Yorkshire, in 1905, Butterfield left school to become a wool stapler (dealer of wool). Butterfield studied painting under Henry Butler at Bradford School of Art.

Encouraged by leading educator and art collector of the day, Sir Michael Sadler, in the late 1920s he sacrificed a regular income, attempting to make a career by painting full-time. It was around this time that he developed his distinctive abstract style.

The 1930s were Butterfields' best, in 1934 he had his first successful show at the prestigious Zwemmer Gallery, London and was considered to be a rising star. In that year he also joined the Seven and Five Society, whose other new members included Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Paul Nash. The Seven and Five Society which had been established in 1919 with a mission to restrain modernism, came to an end due to internal rivalry, with the original ethos of conservatism and tradition failing to satisfy the new blood. The new members favouring modernism expelled the conservatives then moved on to establish the: 7 and 5 Abstract Group.

Although Butterfield had not previously travelled to either London or Paris, spurred on by his growing success - he opened studios in both these capital cities. He also had exhibitions at several other galleries during the 30s.

His success in the world of fine art was short lived, indeed it could be referred to as his decade of success. By 1940 Leeds City Art Gallery had declined to exhibit his work and general interest in Butterfield was waining fast. Early into the 1940s he had given up painting leaving behind the insecure life as a full-time artist and was working as an illustrator / journalist with Norman Kark Publications.

Butterfield died in obscurity in 1968.


Article By: Dave Roberts.

First Published: 2007.


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David Francis Butterfield | Henry Moore | John Piper






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