Francis Carr was born in 1919, Geza Dezső Spitzer, in Budapest, Hungary. In 1937 he began studying law on the request of his father. As a young man he toured Italy to study the High Renaissance, this was to change the direction of his life. In the Sistine Chapel, finding himself alone, he encountered a multi-sensory experience of light and colour. This moved him to an early realisation of the power of art using a multi-disciplinary approach. (Featured: detail Barbican oil pastel 1990’s).
With the rise of Fascism he did not return to Hungary, emigrating to England. In 1939 he enrolled at the Central School of Arts and Crafts as a graphics student studying under John Farley and William Roberts. In 1940 evacuated to Northhampton School of Art he met Dorothy Carr who was studying at St Martins Art School, they married the following year and he adopted an English name, they remained life long collaborators. He joined the Pioneer Corps in 1941, transferred to Army Intelligence in 1945 and was a translator at the Nuremberg War Crimes. His final army post was to organise the first art school for army personnel in Hamburg, where he also taught. His war story is in The Imperial War Museum Sound Archive.
Traveller Across Disciplines
Francis Carr’s original and innovative influence on art ranges from screen printing in the 1940’s to work in mosaic, sculpture, drawing, panting and land art.
He is widely regarded as one of the main instigators and exponents of early screenprinting as a creative medium in this country. He taught and wrote over a hundred articles, culminating in the seminal book A Guide to Screen Printing Process Vista books 1961. That same year marrying imagination with technique he created The Magic Garden, a tactile mixed-media mural, commissioned by the LCC for New Kings Road Primary School, London. Recognised as a pioneering example of educational interactive art, it was restored in 2008 with support from The 20th Century Society and can be viewed upon request (featured).
Francis believed that art should be for everyone and wanted his work to be out into the world, and away from established venues. He embraced every opportunity, turning his hand to new media and site-specific collaborations. He pioneered ecological concerns through his own work and by promoting the work of others.
Artist with a Social Conscience
His life-long commitment to socially responsible art led him to teaching, mentoring and building forums in which people could connect, such as the New Organization 1968, an environmental pressure group which anticipated the present awareness of green issues amongst artists and other professionals. The most influential of these is The Landscape and Arts Network founded in 1986, flourishing today as an online network.
In terms of public and environmental art, Francis Carr was conceptually ahead of his time. In 1965 he was employed by the GLC to develop decorative wall treatments for schools, housing and municipal buildings. In 1970 he created a boulder-strewn landscape with a sundial centrepiece for the new tidal harbour at Port Talbot opened by the Queen. In 1990 he travelled to Kazakhstan to create an earthwork, working with local people and using found materials to construct the Tree of Life stone maze (featured).
In 2004 he was invited onto a panel to judge submissions Seeing The South environmental art competition, Beirut Lebanon, a UN initiative to redefine war zones.
Francis was a member of The Centre for Landscape and Environmental Arts Research (CLEAR) at Cumbria Institute of Arts, Carlise. In 2013 he bequeathed selected publications, reference books, lecture notes and archival material for the establishment a new database for the students and visitors to use.
Collections amongst others: Arts Council of Great Britain, British Museum Dept. of Prints and Drawing, Victoria and Albert Museum, Imperial War Museum, Manchester Transport Museum, London Transport Museum, National Gallery of Art, Canberra Australia, Leeds City Art Gallery, Neil Jennings Fine Art Prints, and private collections in the UK, Australia, France, Japan, USA.