Paul Feiler

1918 saw the birth of Paul Feiler in Frankfurt-am-Main. Feiler studied at the Slade School of Art alongside Patrick Heron and Bryan Wynter from 1936 to 1940, after fleeing Nazi Germany in 1933. His early life experiences, such as trekking in the Alps, seeing the Market Gate of Miletus in the Pergamon Museum, and seeing glimpses of colonnades while visiting Venice in 1947, all had a lasting impact on him.

Feiler pursued his education at the Slade School of Fine Art after forgoing a promising medical career. He kicked against the Slade’s traditionalism and followed his own course, knowing that his training there would serve him well. During the war, Feiler was detained, and got his diploma from the Slade (then linked with the Ruskin) in absentia. In 1941, he was employed as an art master at Eastbourne College, then, in 1946, as a teacher at the West of England College of Art. He was having a regular stream of exhibitions at places like the Redfern, the Leicester Galleries, and the Royal Academy currently. He married June Miles in 1945, with whom he afterwards relocated to Bristol.

Minimalist, abstract paintings of the local countryside were inspired by Feiler’s trip to Cornwall in 1949. At this location, he reconnected with classmates Heron and Wynter, with whom he had an exhibition at the Bristol Art Gallery in 1949 and met William Scott and Peter Lanyon.

After a successful solo show at the Redfern Gallery in 1953 as well as a productive trip to Italy in the same year, Feiler moved to Kerris, near Penzance. His work was displayed in group exhibitions with Wynter, Lanyon, and Scott’s work at the St. Ives summer school Terry Frost founded (who became great friends with Feiler). Feiler’s work stood out from that of his St. Ives contemporaries due to his thickly encrusted surfaces.

Feiler’s artwork was chosen at this time to be featured in significant group shows, including British Abstract Painting, organised by the British Council, which travelled to Paris, Milan, Montreal, and Melbourne in 1957, and British Paintings in the 1960s, held at the Tate Gallery in 1961. At the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol in 1964, Feiler exhibited alongside Lanyon, Roger Hilton, and Alan Davie.

Due to his discomfort with the idea of belonging to a group, Feiler’s work changed dramatically in the late 1960s. Motivated by the moon landings, he started creating simplified compositions of circles and vertical bars that were evocative of Malevich’s pure Supremacist studies. Feiler created a sequence of concentric squares in 1969, each with a circle enclosed in the centre, as he drew ever closer to his goal of achieving “elusive space”.

This was the first of his so-called shrine paintings, which he spent the ensuing forty years creating and perfecting using early examples of ancient architecture as his sources of inspiration. Even though the paint by this point had been placed in flat, careful strokes, the delicate colour gradations also call to mind his Cornish landscapes. The Scottish Arts Council organised a solo exhibition of his work after the art historian John Steer endorsed it. Curated by Bryan Robertson, it toured England and Germany from 1980 to 1981.

From 1995 to 1997, Feiler worked on the ‘Janus’ series, which was painted in intense, dark colours and incorporated the patterns of his earlier ‘Sekos’ and ‘Aduton’ series. The subsequent series, ‘Janicon’, introduced bright gold. In 2005, Feiler displayed his most recent paintings in ‘The Near and The Far’, a show at the Tate St. Ives that contrasted them with pieces he had chosen from the Tate’s collection, including pieces by Cézanne, Malevich, and Turner. With a series of ‘Square Reliefs’, in which the collaged composition included painted and Perspex parts before being enclosed in a Perspex frame, Feiler pioneered new territory from 2008 until his death in 2013.

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MEDIUM Yearly lots sold Sell-through rate Sale price Price over estimate
Painting 3 71.4% £45k 14%
Work on Paper 2 75% £3k 26%


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