Charles Sims RA – A Troubled Man

Charles  Sims didn’t visit Dymchurch very often, quite possibly only once. You can probably guess why he was visiting – he was seeing his friend Paul Nash.

Charles Sims RA The Sands at Dymchurch

Sims is not a well-known artist, he had a troubled life. Plagued by mental health issues, his life’s work varied from inspired, skilled and idiosyncratic, to strange and….well, not very good really.

On the up side he became Keeper of the Royal Academy in 1920, his work had started to become recognised and acknowledged. Unfortunately, the 1914-18 war had left deep mental scars and his work after the war became “Spiritual” showing naked figures cavorting against apocalyptic backgrounds This prompted instant rejection by the Art establishment.  With the benefit of hindsight his work from this period was actually very “modern” and quite cutting edge. Nash, eager to associate with Modernism found Sims work exciting. Conversely, the poet Gordon Bottomley, (a life long friend and correspondent with Nash) saw Sims as “unbelievably bad”

Sadly, Sims ended his life in 1928, the stress of losing his son in the war and his own fragile state of mind caused him to throw himself in the river Tweed at St Boswells in Scotland.

Charles Sims “My Pain Beneath thy Sheltering Hand” (bit of El Greco in there I think..)

Fortunately Charles Sims left a considerable and varied body of work. In the 1980’s, I was Curator of Bury Art Gallery in Lancashire. The collection there (which is very fine and worth a visit) contained a number of oil sketches by Sims which had a freshness and fluidity of brushwork which at the time caught my eye.

Happily, Sims’ visit to Dymchurch in 1920 left a painted legacy, a beautifully worked view of the beach, which is bright, modern and uplifting. It’s now in the Tate Britain Collection.


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