1919-1933: The Bauhaus
1937-1944: The New Bauhaus and the Institute of Design.
1880-1910: Arts and Crafts movement, Glasgow Style and Vienna Secession
1921: The exhibition Salon Dada opens at the Galerie Montaigne in Paris
1885-1918: Francis Henry Newbery heads The Glasgow School of Art
The emergence of Raoul Reynolds’ story dates back to the early 2000s when Henry Reynolds, grandson of Raoul’s brother, inherited a family house in Vermont – a cottage in the forest, overlooking the grey, shimmering surface of Lake Whitingham. 
The remote dwelling was cluttered with eccentric assemblages of waste materials which contrasted sharply with well-refined objects inspired by Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles, as well as photographs, sketches, ceramics, wooden sculptures and filmstrips, all weathering the humidity of the cottage. Aided by a group of European and American art historians, anecdotal accounts by family and friends, correspondences and archival research, Henry could reconstruct the broad lines of his great-uncle’s story and place the objects of his discovery within an approximate timeline. 

1940-1945: Churchill creates the
Special Operations Executive (SOE)
1924: André Breton publishes the Surrealist Manifesto
1882-1971: Glasgow Society of Lady Artists
1925: Exposition internationale d’arts décoratifs et industriels modernes
1897-1909: Charles Rennie Mackintosh builds
                             the new Glasgow School of Art
1960’s: Minimalism
1933-1957: The Black Mountain College
1880                                                           1890                                                           1900                                                           1910                                                           1920                                                           1930                                                           1940                                                            1950                                                           1960                                                            1970
Raoul Reynolds was born on December 8th, 1882, first son of Joshua Reynolds and Henriette Aliès-Reynolds. Henriette was a woman of strong personality and independence who inherited from her father, a tobacco importer, a taste for travel. She left her native city of Marseille in 1880 and set up home in Glasgow where she enrolled as a student at The Glasgow School of Art. Two years later she was married, expecting a child and involved in the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists, a club run by female students, which exhibited artworks and craft objects made by women artists. Mutual friends had introduced her to Joshua, a renowned shipbuilder who was also a fervent adherent to the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement, with its emphasis upon craftsmanship, simple forms and quality materials, inspired by medieval and folk styles and the organic world. Joshua aimed to play an active part in this renewal of design by decorating the first class cabins, restaurant and lounge of his new transatlantic liner in the new style.  
Raoul, thus, grows up on the laps of engineers, artists, architects and designers, and at an early age he meets Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Frances Newbery, who introduce him to the Glasgow Style.  

It is no surprise then that, in 1897, Raoul begins his educational training in Design and Decorative Arts at the Glasgow School of Art, joining the Glasgow Style movement which is strongly connected to the school. Indeed, the building of the new school of art designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh starts this same year. No works remain to bear witness to Raoul’s period of study, but a document from the archives of GSA dated 1900 mentions “a virtuous accomplishment of a stained-glass window, interlacing stylised figures of Japanese influence with organic patterns, flowers and leaves, brightly and harmoniously coloured.” Consequently, this early production provides a possible link to later experiments with glass. 
Aside from his art work, anecdotal evidence reveals that Raoul had been an enthusiastic supporter of boxing since childhood. Although it was an illegal sport during the 19th century, Reynolds likely begins practising it at this time. 

The first known work by Reynolds is Without Real Work There is No Real Leisure, an ebonised oak screen, made around 1903, soon after his mother’s sudden death. This is an homage to this early feminist and emancipated woman who stencilled textiles with natural and geometric patterns. Raoul stretched her final fabric works on a wooden structure and fabricated a screen, an object whose printed patterns, in addition to the script font of the sentence engraved on the back of the screen, fully place it within the Glasgow Style.

Between 1905 and 1910, Joshua and Raoul embark upon lengthy business travels in Asia, the USA and South America, where Joshua intends to introduce his son to the ways of the business world. These travels equip Raoul with training in commercial diplomacy and international relations and provide a chance for him to meet important international traders and politicians. Hand-written notes and sketches from this period also record Raoul’s enthusiasm for the philosophies and ritual objects of these countries as well as a growing interest in ethnology.

In 1911 Raoul is in Paris, where he meets Constantin Brancusi, André Mare, and Marcel Duchamp, artists who will inspire him throughout his career. In the French capital he also meets Sergei Diaghilev, an impresario who, in 1909, founds the Ballets Russes, the troupe that goes on to re-invent the art of dance in the 20th century. Like other artists of this time, such as Picasso, Reynolds collaborates with the company in order to create scenery for their shows. The only surviving fragment is Column 2, a hollow column whose form is inspired by Arts and Crafts vases. In 1912, back in Glasgow, he takes over the shipbuilding business from his father, but nevertheless continues his artistic pursuits, producing sculptures inspired by Brancusi that have unfortunately been lost.  

It is not possible thus far to reconstruct Raoul’s activities during the First World War, as neither documents nor correspondence have been found. It has been suggested that he was working for the British intelligence services, because of his later collaborations. We have also reason to believe that at some point he was at the Western Front, where he met Oskar Schlemmer – who at this time was working at the cartography service in Colmar – because they start an intense epistolary correspondence at the end of the war, exchanging ideas about their common aim to overcome the separation between arts and crafts.  

Following Joshua’s death during the war, Raoul sells the business and sets up home in Paris. There he lives a bohemian life, spending time with artists in the cafés and engaging in endless discussions about the nature and philosophy of art. However, the reasons for his settling in Paris are probably not solely artistic in nature. Indeed, the subsequent discovery of a series of blackened papers containing detailed information about German and French businessmen and politicians leads us to think that Raoul’s artistic practice was most likely a cover for espionage activities. 

The enthusiastic conversations with Schlemmer lead, between 1925 and 1930, to an invitation to Reynolds to hold a series of conferences about the Glasgow Style at the Bauhaus. Take the Chair and The Spill are probably realised after his discussions with the teachers of the school. These works are part of a series of objects made following the geometric forms and primary colour theories of the Bauhaus. Reynolds covers the objects with rhombus patterns and places them on pedestals, thus questioning the difference between a work of art and a craft object. These quotidian objects, presented on bases that look more like theatre sets than pedestals, were also really probably a nod to Marcel Duchamp’s “rectified ready-mades”. Indeed, at the end of the Twenties, Reynolds draws closer to Dada and Surrealism, as Untitled Film and Objects from Untitled Film (c.1928-30) make evident. Untitled Film is Raoul’s unique surviving celluloid work, revealing a singular cinematographic vision. Unfortunately, the film was badly damaged, with the only existing fragments displaying some form of phantasmagorical ceremony or ritual activity. An experimental film, it is probably inspired by other cultures’ cosmologies observed by Reynolds during his travels with his father. The props used in the film, which have been recreated here from found sketches, show the gradual transition from Bauhausian forms to those of the Surrealists.

By the end of the ‘Golden Twenties’, signalled by the Great Depression and marked by disappointment in the collapse of the Bauhaus’ progressive ideals, Raoul has embraced Surrealism. Making an appearance at this time is the figure of the spider – symbol of feminine energy, creativity and protection - which is probably another tribute to his mother – and of the octopus, whose symbolism is associated with mystery. Like these symbols, the lobster cages used for Blue Blood #1 and Blue Blood #2 demonstrate a growing interest in the organic world. Occult, oneiric and bizarre dimensions are conjured through the association of objects, the creation of extravagant forms and the use of raw materials. An emblematic work, L’ascension du haut mal: Dante let it bring you down!, superimposes in the eight frames of its structure, symbols that relate Raoul’s imaginary take on Dante’s journey in the circles of hell, while interweaving references to Duchamp’s work and Henry Michaux’s poetry.
In 1938 Raoul is invited by Suzanne Ramié, who opens a famous ceramics workshop called Madoura in Vallauris, in the South of France, to come and experiment with this material. This is an opportunity for the artist to escape the oppressive situation of the city and the terrible realities of the imminent new war, and to direct creative energy into the creation of pottery. Since his youth, Raoul has learned to channel negative feelings through the gestural control and discipline he has perfected in the boxing ring. “In Vallauris I temporarily released myself from dreadful presages. My mixed blood couldn’t bear racial hatred and civil wars… The clay was a sweet, malleable material… Suddenly, I was freeing my rage and fear, boxing with the clay until exhaustion.” [Handwritten note, not dated, about the genesis of the work Une réalité rugueuse à étreindre].

At the end of 1940, several artists like André Breton, Max Ernst, André Masson and Wifredo Lam flee the German occupation of Northern France and seek refuge in Marseille at the Villa Air-Bel while waiting their exit visa before embarking for the United States. Raoul joins them and the group get used to meeting at the port, in the café “Aux brûleurs de loups”. Together, they realise several cadavres exquis drawings and redesign the famous Tarot of Marseille.  
In March 1941, the Surrealists finally embark while Raoul is enrolled into the SOE. Now aged 60, his contribution to the organisation centres around industrial espionage. As the Germans advance the manufacturing process of glass fibres and polyester resin by refining curing processes, Raoul, with other British intelligence agents, steals secrets of the resin’s production methods and turns them over to American firms. This new material - the key characteristic of which is a combination of extreme lightness, high strength and durability - is subsequently used in the aeronautics and shipbuilding industries. Unmasked and sought by the German authorities, Raoul is exiled in the USA.  

In 1943, Raoul sets up home in a remote hut next to Whitingham, Vermont. Isolation and strict daily activity begin to shape a new personality, allowing him to build an intimate relationship with this uncontaminated natural landscape in which he thoroughly immerses himself and depends upon wholly for his day-to-day survival. This is the start of the “Hut Period”. Here, he is a forester, a hunter, a fisherman. The quietness of his life is a façade though – his humble subsistence masks what could also be viewed as an act of violence towards himself. Works of this period are imbued with the edgy, existentialist spirit of this new life: roughly carved wood, axe marks, assemblages of saws, axe handles, little sculptures made with found objects, metal and wood.  
Fighting for his survival and in constant fear of being discovered, he disguises his hut according to the principles of disruptive colouration camouflage inspired by forms derived from Cubism and developed during the First World War by his friend André Mare. The hut no longer exists, but the work Birth By the Feet echoes this period and the camouflage rules. During this retreat, Reynolds engages in a more intimate practice, often turning to mythology for inspiration. Tan by Time is a work referring to time as it relates to nature or memory. Raoul remembers his past life, his native country, Scotland, and the intensity of the light in the Marseille summer. This skin, tanned by the sun and stretched on a wooden structure, represents the passage of time.  

At the end of the war, released from the loneliness of exile, Raoul builds a house next to the hut, and returns to the arts community. He is invited to give lectures at the Black Mountain College and at the Institute of Design in Chicago, headed at that time by László Moholy-Nagy. When teaching at the Bauhaus, Moholy-Nagy had experimented with photogram techniques - photographic images obtained without the use of the camera – created by simply placing objects on the surface of photosensitive photographic paper and then exposing them to the light. When Moholy-Nagy dies in 1946, Raoul pays him tribute and creates the series of photograms Off the Grid. These are a reference to Scottish fabrics, but they also refer to the grids of cities such as New York and Glasgow and of Frank Lloyd Wright or Le Corbusier’s modernist architecture. 
By reconnecting with these schools and their pursuit of Bauhaus values which stress the union between art, craft and technology, Reynolds introduces industrial materials into his practice, such as resin and Perspex.  
A tribute to Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style, but also to the protective nature of his exile, Raoul creates a work - half-object, half-sculpture – consisting of leaf shapes cast in resin and contained by a wooden structure, partially recalling the forms of 19th century chandeliers.

During the 1950s, Reynolds moves to New York, while keeping his house in Vermont, to which he retires in the summer months. The Art Deco architecture of the Empire State Building recalls for him the insouciance of the Golden Twenties. He then creates a second decorative screen, Take the Path You Haven’t Taken Before, decorated with geometrical patterns and covered with turquoise wax. A major work, this piece announces the advent of the mixing of styles that will characterise Postmodernism as it emerges during the 1970s.  

During his last years, Reynolds’ embraces Minimalism though opposes its pure abstraction, instead including references to past works and relationships. Thus, It used to be a cube deconstructs the original cubic form so as to open it up to become a decorative screen. While the tartan fabrics cast in resin echo Off the Grid, they are marked with surrealist symbols. Sulfur-lemon Teardrop, Mutual Distance (Litmus), Son absence m’efface du monde and Mes creux sauvent tes pleins might allude to those lost sculptures inspired by Brancusi that Reynolds had realised in 1912. Although the forms refer to the abstract sculpture of the beginning of the 20th century, the artist uses innovative materials like acrylic or aluminium positioning them firmly as contemporary objects.  

Finally, the actuality of female experience as described by the second wave of feminism brings Raoul to realise Relation of Incidents and In the Shadow. These geometric structures made of stainless steel, support Perspex boards upon which are printed images. These images refer to the history of feminism and to the place of women in art and pay a last tribute to his mother who had always encouraged his creative talents. 
A few weeks after the production of these works, on the 21st October 1969, Reynolds dies peacefully in his sleep in his New York apartment. 

Timeline compiled by Francesca Zappia