People - George Wynne Apperley

George Apperley self portrait
George Apperley self portrait

George Wynne Apperley (1884-1960)

By Chris Chaplow

George Apperley was born to an aristocratic Welsh military family on the Isle of Wight, UK; his father died when he was six. Although he trained at Sandhurst,Georgeshowed a preferencefor art, much to the disapproval of family.

He enrolled at the Herkomer School of Art (Bushey, Hertfordshire) in 1903 but was expelled and joined the anti-academy movement. The following year he travelled to Italy with his art tutor. Even so the Royal Academy in London accepted his works as part of a collective exhibition in 1904; his first solo show was two years later. That year he secretly married Hilda Pope and the couple moved to Lugano in Switzerland for a few years, before returning to Hampstead in London, and later to Bushey. They had three children: Doris (who died as a child), Edward and Phyllis.

The artist travels to Spain

In 1913 George travelled to Spain alone to paint and was particularly impressed with Granada and the Alhambra.

"The Gardens of the Generalife.... where goldfish swim in emerald ponds, fountains splash under ancient cypresses and ilex, roses clamber over shady loggias and crystal waters tinkle eternally by the side of steps and terraces in perpetual shade," he wrote.

Shortly after Apperley returned to Britain, the First World War broke out. Having been pronounced unfit for military service, he became depressed and was apparently advised by doctors to travel south. Apperley departed for Spain again in 1916, leaving his English family behind, never to return to them.

He stayed in Madrid first and travelled to Granada in 1917, where he lived permanently until 1933.

Madrid and royal connections

In 1918 Apperley held an exhibition in Madrid which was opened by King Alfonso XIII and his English Queen, Victoria Eugenia, which naturally raised his artistic profile. 

The artist in Granada

In Granada he developed his artistic style, moving on from landscapes to portraits, and was particularly known for Andalucian themes and customs, as well as exotic female semi-nudes and nudes, often of the gitanas (gypsy women) of the Albaicin in Granada. Although he lived abroad, his pictures were exhibited at the Royal Academy and published in British journals.

Apperley was immersed in Granada's art world and knew Federico Garcia Lorca who, in a letter to a friend, referred to certain pastries as Jorges, because they were Apperley's favourites. This was how he and his second wife, Enriqueta Contreras Carretero, became affectionately known. They had two children together, Enrique and Jorge.

Their carmen (town house with a walled garden) in Plaza San Nicolas in the Albaicin area became a meeting point for artists. 

In spite of his rebellious youth, Apperley rejected vanguard styles known collectively as-ismos (expresionismo, cubismo, surrealismo), opting instead to associate with contemporary masters such as Soria Aedo, Rodriguez Acosta, Lopez Mezquita and Morcillo. The irony of this did not escape him.

In Tangier

With the outcome of the Second Republic, in 1932 or 1933 Apperleyand his Spanish family escape the instability in Spainand moved to Tangier, Morocco, then a European Protectorate full of expats

Apperley held a number of important exhibitions in the city while living there. In 1945, his Minza Hotel exhibition was promoted by the British Consul. The same year he was awarded the Order of Alfonso the Wise by the Spanish Government.

In the 1950s his work was exhibited in Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga, as well as Granada and Tangier.

Apperley lived in Tangier, making return visits to Granada, until his death in 1960.

After his death

Many posthumous exhibitions have been held in London and Spain (both in Granada and in Madrid), and in 1987 a show about Apperley's life and works was held at Bushey Museum to celebrate the reunion of his English and Spanish families.

Exhibitions are still held in Granada.

Statue of the artist in Granada

A small bronze statue of Apperley holding a paint palette by the Valencian artist Mariano Benlliure y Gil, crafted in 1944, was donated to Granada by the artist's family. Located in Placeta de la Gloria (a small square named after the street leading into it) in the Albaicin, behind a metal railing, the statue was inaugurated by the mayor on 3 April 2007. George's son Enrique then campaigned for four years for a plaque to be added next to the statue, to explain whom the statue commemorates.

Happily, Enrique unveiled the plaque in a low key ceremony on 2 November 2011; but after just four months, the plaque was removed by vandals. Two years later, a second plaque was installed; unfortunately George's surname was spelled incorrectly, and it had to be removed by the Town Hall the following day. In 2016, the present plaque was installed.

One of Apperley's works, Amigas,which formed part of the Garo Collection that used to be on display in Estepona, was sold at auction in December 2016.

His works can be purchased from a website run by his son Enrique here.