The Art of Milly Flamburiari – What They Say

Simon Edsor
Former Director of The Fine Art Society

A bigger compliment has never come my way, than when Milly Flamburiari asked me to step into the polished shoes of Christopher Wood (1941-2009) the eminent art historian, writer and dealer, who wrote the introduction to Milly’s exhibition at Frank Partridge & Son’s beautiful galleries in New Bond Street in 2009. It was Christopher’s literary swan song.

London’s Saint Martin’s school of Art that Milly attended focused on fine art and fashion, Milly is an exemplar of their alumni. Gilbert and George, the great makers of giant patterns, met at Saint Martin’s and the great Scottish painter William Johnston, who was director for many years, set in stone a tradition of fine drawing and brilliant colour, his reputation was established by his finely drawn and colourful paintings of birds and animals. If he was still with us today, I am quite certain he would be an enthusiastic supporter of Milly’s present exhibition.

At Chelsea School of Art, to which Milly also went; eminent artists who also went there included Paul Nash, the sculptor Ossip Zadkine, Edward Burra and Patrick Caulfield. One can recognise the tradition of Chelsea School of Art in Burra’s and Caulfield’s art continuing in Milly’s paintings: Meticulous and well-wrought.

Milly is a brilliant colourist, and the patterns she draws are extremely sophisticated: Christopher Wood referred to ‘Milly’s strong sense of design’ with which I must concur. He also mentions the English tradition of illustration engendered in the work of the French-born, Paris-trained and adopted Englishman Edmund Dulac (1882-1953) and the Danish-born and also Paris-trained Kay Nielson (1886-1957) although I would also liken Milly’s work to the great Charles Robinson (1870-1937) the London-born and trained illustrator of children’s books.

This is not to ignore Art Deco artists such as Sonia Delaunay, the Anglo-American Edward McKnight Kauffer, and even ceramicist Eileen Gray; with whose finely drawn and colourful work lives on in Milly’s work.

Art is all about tradition, even in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries: the abandoning of tradition in the 20th century is very sad: but in Milly Flamburiari we have a modern development of the entirety of the last century.

Martin Royalton-Kisch
Former Senior Curator at The British Museum

Endowed with a deft and precise drawing hand, Milly Flamburiari exhibits an unerring sense of design, marking out her compositions with ultra-precise outlines that are worthy of the most demanding seamstress. These she combines with high-key colours that veer towards the brilliant hues of a New England quilt. The analogies with textiles are not unexpected, as the artist not only trained at the St Martin’s School of Art but also studied dress design at the Chelsea College of Art.
Her works admit and transform motifs from a great variety of sources, whether from nature – lilies, roses, tulips, sunflowers, fruit and trees – or from art ranging from Ancient Minoan frescoes to the sensuously exotic fantasies and designs of Aubrey Beardsley, Bakst and Erté. With her bold fields of cheerful colour, often applied flat as a collage (a technique that she has also practised), she reflects the tradition of Japonaiserie that inspired artists from Degas to Matisse. The late Christopher Wood rightly remarked on her kinship with book-illustrators such as Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielsen. Yet Milly Flamburiari’s mood is irrepressibly optimistic and romantic, the sky more likely to contain a joyous rainbow than a sinister cloud. A soupçon of Surrealism allows peacocks to be pink, flowers to attain Alice in Wonderland proportions or a cat to sport net stockings and high-heeled shoes. Her figures and animals luxuriate in the blossoming fecundity of their natural surroundings, or they may nestle by a vase brimming with flowers or strut past a Charles Rennie Mackintosh window.
These works eschew the dialogue with insanity which has dominated western art since the time of Van Gogh 130 years ago. We are invited, rather, to enter an altogether healthier realm. Matisse famously said that he wanted his art to be like a good armchair, devoid of depressing subject-matter, providing relaxation from physical fatigue. It is highly reassuring, in our troubled times, to encounter in Milly Flamburiari an artist who can so intuitively resuscitate and reinvigorate a style of art before which we can kick off our shoes, put on comfy and colourful slippers and enjoy ourselves, unperturbed by fashionable post-Freudian Angst. These are pictures that come with smiles, designed for cosy homes, and they will appeal to all those with a taste that embraces la Belle Epoque and Art Deco.

This is how the late Christopher Wood introduced Milly’s previous exhibitions

“This is a subject very suited to Milly’s talents, allowing her imagination full reign. The overriding impression of her pictures in their brilliance of colour, combined with a strong sense of design. Her technique, flat and one-dimensioned, makes them look very like book illustrations. Indeed, she belongs to that tradition of English illustrators, such as Edmund Dulac (1882-1953) and Kay Nielsen (1886-1957). Like them her work is incredibly precise, brilliantly coloured, exotic and also full of humour”.

Terry New
Former President of the Royal Society of Sculptors

Milly Flamburiari’s work exhibits the delight and awe of creating painting and drawings. These paintings are the stuff of dreams, memories and experience. With a magic of interrelated themes and motifs the work exhibits an authority of line and discipline, coupled with a skilful and precise graphic control. This feeling for line and design permeates their conception and the delight and enjoyment of their making is evident.
In “Simple Pleasures” complex associations abound. The work encourages repeat viewing, each time leading us to a different dream like sequence. Thus “Simple Pleasures” become far from simple. The vibrant use of colour, skilful line and life experience entice us into a world of the fantastical and graceful. Where the work is executed in monochrome, Milly creates contrast with the fine black, grey and white detail.
Milly’s Flamburiari’s paintings celebrate the experience and wonder of being alive. As the viewer one is drawn into an infinitely more magical, serenely elegant yet complex world.

Megakles Rogakos, MA MA PhD
Art Historian and Exhibition Curator

Milly Flamburiari’s painting is top rate art! She creates pictures of dream, fantasy and imagination after the beautiful, graceful and good world inside her. In her pictures all elements flow like a continuous stream of aesthetics. She designs every picture with fine lines, exquisite forms, and exuberant colours. Her designs are characterised by excellent composition, abundant beauty, and bold originality.

Further than being fine art, her pictures are offered to the world as windows of hope and optimism. Essentially, Milly’s pictures concern situations that we should like to rejoice in our own lives.