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Carel Weight RA (1908-1997)
I Cheer a Dead Man's Sweetheart, 1978

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Carel Weight often populated his work with ghostly presences. In his painting I Cheer a Dead Man’s Sweetheart, the solitary man on the right appears as a ghost, watching the couple on the left. Weight commented on his work: ‘what interests me most about the human situation – or perhaps predicament would be a better word – is the ever-present imminence of danger and disaster, of the sudden, unexpected, often terrible happening’. The title of this painting is taken from A.E. Housman’s poem Is My Team Ploughing, written as a conversation between a dead man and his living friend. The poem ends with the line ‘Yes, lad, I lie easy, I lie as lads would choose; I cheer a dead man’s sweetheart, Never ask me whose.’


oil on board


28 x 36 in. (71 x 91.5 cm.)


Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 23 June 1999, lot 73, where purchased.


London, Royal Academy, Summer Exhibition, 1978, no. 491. London, Royal Academy, Carel Weight R.A., January - February 1982, no. 90: this exhibition toured with the Arts Council to: York, City Art Gallery, February – April 1982; Rochdale, Art Gallery, April – May 1982; Penzance, Newlyn Art Gallery, May – June 1982; and Folkestone, New Metropole Arts Centre, July – August 1982.

Born in London, Carel Weight studied at Hammersmith School of Art from 1928-30 where he met the artist Ruskin Spear. Weight chose to leave Hammersmith School in 1931 and continued his studies at Goldsmiths College. In the same year Weight’s work was shown in the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, where he regularly exhibited work throughout his career. He taught at Beckenham School of Art from 1932-42 and had his first solo exhibition at Cooling Galleries, London in 1934.

During the Second World War Weight was called up to the Royal Engineers and taught with the Army Education Corps before being employed as an Official War Artist. After the war Weight taught at the Royal College of Art, London, where he became Professor of Painting. He was appointed CBE in 1962 and elected RA in 1965. A retrospective exhibition was held at the Royal Academy in 1982, and an exhibition was held at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery in 1988 to celebrate his eightieth birthday. He was appointed Companion of Honour in 1995, and died two years later in London.