Robin Blake reviews the exhibition John Craxton: A World of Private Mystery at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, on view through April 21, 2014.
Blake writes: "Craxton’s compositional signature, from his early years to much of the mature painting, is a preoccupation with the binary division of the canvas, and the balance of left and right, whereby the eye switches back and forth between two contrasting sides, or is impelled towards a central feature of interest such as a twisted tree. This kind of repetitive balancing can look compulsive and a touch academic, yet it is expressive of Craxton’s own nature… True, some seem patterned and formulaic, and they are a touch emotionally passive even as they celebrate the blazing passion for life that the Greeks call kefi. But in diverse and accepting times, there is plenty to be said for such positive and gently life-enhancing visions, while there are a few paintings in which Craxton transcends himself, and even achieves a state close to ecstasy." A wide selection of Craxton's paintings can be seen here.