Saw BBC TV program about John Minton a few days ago. The presenter Mark Gatiss took the line that in the forties and early fifties he was the rising star of British art, but that by 1957 he had been eclipsed by artists who painted in a new fashion, in particular Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. The result was that he went into a deep depression and killed himself. I recall being told by a girl who had been accepted as a painting student at the Royal College of art that his suicide was a shattering blow as he was considered to be most significant painter on their staff by far in the circles in which she moved.
Art moves in a mysterious way, and the current generation always belittles the previous generation as being conservative, hidebound and so on, until in their turn they find themselves in the same sinking ship as those who they so cruelly deprecated when they were riding the sunlit surface of a new wave of art. If Gatiss has it right, then Minton was sucked down by the somewhat aimless drift of Art into regions where its rather pretentious self-description is redolent with words like ‘radical’, ‘revolutionary’, ‘transgressive’ and so on. Perhaps, like me, Minton was repelled not so much by the new work, as the thought of abandoning sincerity and becoming a pathetic figure imitating the new wave like an old monkey copying the caperings of younger monkeys. Wherever you are now, John Minton, you never sold out in this life.