The Birthday Party
Framed (ref: 215)
Oil on paper, 12 x 29 1/2 in. (20.5 x 75 cm.)
Provenance: The Artist's Estate
This composition shows a section of the design Mahoney submitted circa 1957 for the redecoration of the Morley College Hall following the WW2 destruction of the original Morley College Murals painted by Mahoney, Bawden and Morely.
According to the minutes of the Mural Sub-Committe (1956) artists were invited to submit designs to decorate the Hall and Refectory of the reconstructed college with the following guidance: 'the keynote of the Hall designs should be one of dignity, whilst those of the Refectory should have a lighter, more humorous, even possibly an 'impudent' touch'.
The minutes also record the fact that 'A letter which the late Eric Ravilious had addressed to the late Principal at the time of the destruction of the old building was read to the Committee. It evinced the interest which the writer - had he lived - and Edward Bawden would have taken in any scheme for replacing the murals.'
As regards the selection of artists, competition among art students of to-day was considered unlikely to produce any worth-while result, whilst open competition was negatived as being likely to debar any artist of eminence. It was felt by all present that invitation rather than competition should be the method adopted, and it was agreed to go by this procedure unless the absent members of the Committee cared to raise the matter again at the next meeting.
It was felt that among the artists who might be considered were:-
Edward Bawden, John Piper, John Anthony Greene, Robert Medley, Ronald Searle, Stanley Spencer, Peter de Francia, Michael Ayrton
and that it would be advantageous for the Principal to begin to contact some of these, without creating the slightest obligation, to find out their degree of interest in the project, and how far they would desire their names to be seriously considered by the Committee. To this list the absent members of the Committee would doubtless wish to add other names.
Mahoney's name was clearly one of those added later as was that of Martin Froy who was eventually selected to paint the murals in the Hall, (completed in 1958). Bawden was chosen to paint the Refectory murals for which he produced a splendid series of designs based on The Canterbury Tales.
We are grateful to Elaine Andrews for Assistance and for providing access to the 1956 Minutes of the Murals Sub-Committee.