Front Cover – Edward Burra - Snack bar –-1930
Burra c 1970
The Royal Academy rang him up when I was staying with him at Chapel House . . . He was painting in his top-floor room that had yellowing pages of The Times pasted over the windows when the light was too strong. Frederick, the manservant, shouted from below: 'The Royal Academy on the phone, Mr Edward.' 'Tell them to fuck off, I'm busy,' Ed shouted back. They rang again next morning. The same reply was bowdlerised to them by Frederick. 'They want me to go and get my medal,' Ed said, 'and have lunch. I wouldn't mind being an ARA [Associate of the Royal Academy] if I didn't have to do that.' But they were adamant and so was Ed ... he only accepted a CBE when told it could be sent to him.
(Clover Pritchard) from Edward Burra Twentieth Century Eye – Jane Stevenson p342
He became a heavy drinker, wasting away weekends getting plastered in Soho. During the 1960s, he loved to stay in Islington in north London, which he described as "full of ladies pickled in years of Guinness & gin & very scruffy" (A Sunday Morning at the Agricultural Arms, his bustling watercolour from 1975, records this period). By then, he looked so dilapidated that he often had trouble getting a drink: "No wonder they wouldn't serve me - what I looked like - methylated spirit in person". When he accepted a CBE in 1971, it was partly on the grounds that this might help to prevent publicans throwing him out.
Alistair Sooke reviewing Jane Stevenson