In Search of the Picassoettes Jeffrey Jones    

The Oral Testimony of William Newland


The oral testimony of William Newland (1919-1998) is at present the only available evidence that Bernard Leach referred to the three members of the Bayswater workshop as the Picassoettes. In a 1994 video recording William Newland reminisced about an exhibition in London in 1958:


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We had an exhibition at Goldsmith's and Terence Mullaly did a nice illustrated article on it, I've got a copy of it somewhere, and there's a Mexican figure at the top, there's my bull, photographed and reproduced, there's a Margaret Hine pigeon, and right down at the bottom you've got Bernard Leach painting a little pot, and Leach saw this, oh there's a big Picasso in it as well, but Leach saw this and called us all the Picassoettes. I don't know if he, you know, whether it was to deride us or be funny or what the hell, but it is true, one was fantastically Picassoesque.40

The 'nice illustrated article' that Newland refers to was in fact a substantial review in the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post which featured two exhibitions in London: that at Goldsmith's College referred to above, and an exhibition of Bernard Leach's work at the Primavera Gallery.41 The first of these exhibitions was entitled 'From Pre-history to Picasso' and included the work of William Newland and Margaret Hine amongst others. The illustrations connected with this exhibition took up the greater part of the page and Bernard Leach was indeed given less attention at the bottom. William Newland would surely have enjoyed the comparison made in 1958 and equally have relished the opportunity to recall the moment for posterity thirty-six years later. So what if Bernard Leach did deride his group as the Picassoettes? That didn't alter the fact that Leach ended up at the bottom of the page 'painting a little pot' whereas Newland's bull was next to the 'big Picasso'. There may have been a barbed comment heading Newland's way but he was well capable of turning it around and returning it towards its sender with considerable effect.

The diminutive implications of a term such as 'Picassoettes' deserves comment. Newland was clearly determined to present the connection with Picasso in as positive a light as possible, to interpret it even as an alliance. He had little trouble in making a quick shift on behalf of himself and his colleagues from 'Picassoettes' to 'fantastically Picassoesque'. Newland returns often to the subject of Picasso in the course of his many recorded interviews and each time he shows a concern for size, position and authority. In his sound interview with Anna Hale he talks of 'the big Picasso thing'42 and goes on to refer to the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post article pointing out that Picasso was at the top and Leach 'right at the bottom in quite a small frame'.43 In another part of the video recording in which Newland is interviewed by Mike Hughes, Newland points at a copy of the newspaper article and refers to 'young Bernard down here' and 'bottom of the class' (i.e. at the bottom of the page) although at the time of the publication of the article Leach would have been over seventy years old and considerably older than Newland.


But here's young Bernard down here, and he absolutely loathed that.


The fact that he wasn't–


Well, I think Picasso's there and Newland and Hine and that he was put right down at the bottom. Looked on it as being bottom of the class.44

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The mischievous laugh with which Newland concludes his comments adds considerable colour to this extract. Newland also talks proudly about 'the famous Goldsmiths thing I was telling you about with Picasso, Newland and Bernard', according himself and Picasso surname status and Leach first name status.45

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40 Video recording of William Newland interviewed by Michael Hughes at Prestwood, Buckinghamshire, 29 September 1994, NEVAC CD 709 (2 of 4), 9min.48sec.-10.min.37sec back to article

41 'Ceramics Displayed in Two Exhibitions', The Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, Thursday 6 March 1958, p.12 back to article

42 William Newland interviewed by Anna Hale for NEVAC, at Prestwood, Buckinghamshire, 26 January 1994, AC118, side 2, 2min. 43sec back to article

43 NEVAC AC118, side 2, 44min. 52sec back to article

44 NEVAC CD 709, 18min.40sec -19.05sec back to article

45 NEVAC CD 709, 17min.42sec-17.50sec back to article

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Modern Art in
Post War Britain

Picasso and
the Potters

Dora Billington and
the Bayswater Three

The Oral Testimony
of William Newland


Acknowledgements & Bibliography

In Search of the Picassoettes • Issue 1