• Painterly Abstraction in Post-war Britain

    1 April - 4 May 2021

  • Whilst the early Abstract Expressionism of New York was an evident catalyst for many British artists of the 60s and 70s (including Patrick Heron, Bryan Wynter and John Hoyland), the legacy of modernist and surrealist artists based in Paris such as Giacometti and Brânçusi was still also felt strongly. As such, the range of work produced in Britain at the time reveals the many guises of abstract painting and sculpture. From the immediate post-war period, and later into the 21st-century, there were an infinite variety of abstract paths that artists embarked upon to reach what John Golding would call pure colour sensation. 

  • Works

  • Bryan Wynter

    Maremma, 1961

    Wynter’s approach to making abstract art was accretive, and this colour contrast was not the fulfilment of a predetermined scheme but an organic result, arrived at over a lengthy period spent painting and re-painting the surface. This was a process of enrichment, wholly unplanned, and the final appearance of a work like Maremma is the result of well-practised improvisation. The all-over pattern of working and the consequent absence of focus points was a defining characteristic of Wynter’s work between 1956 and 1964.

    Bryan Wynter, Maremma, 1961
    • Cecil Collins, The Waters of the Sun, 1962
      Cecil Collins, The Waters of the Sun, 1962
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    • William Crozier, Ballast Bank, Troon, 1960
      William Crozier, Ballast Bank, Troon, 1960
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    • William Turnbull, 11-1964, 1964
      William Turnbull, 11-1964, 1964
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  • Ivon Hitchens, Sussex Landscape, 1978

    Ivon Hitchens

    Sussex Landscape, 1978

    Sussex Landscape is an archetypal painting from Hitchens’s late period. In Hitchens’s mature work, a number of large-scale mural commissions had an effect upon his working practices. This smaller-scale easel works reflect the augmented perspective afforded by these commissions, with larger brushes, sweeping strokes, and taut, well-designed compositions.

    • John Hoyland, 1965 (III), 1965
      John Hoyland, 1965 (III), 1965
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    • John Hoyland, 16.9.66, 1966
      John Hoyland, 16.9.66, 1966
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    • Patrick Heron, Four Blues, Two Discs: April 1970, 1970
      Patrick Heron, Four Blues, Two Discs: April 1970, 1970
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  • John Hoyland, 27.7.72, 1972

    John Hoyland

    27.7.72, 1972

    Despite striking up friendships with infamous critic of Abstract Expressionism in New York, Clement Greenberg, and painters Helen Frankanthaler, Robert Motherwell, and Mark Rothko on his first visit to New York in 1964, Hoyland found the reductionism of Greenberg’s modernism leading his painting into an artistic dead-end. It was the sculpture of Anthony Caro, with whom Hoyland exhibited at the 1969 Saõ Paulo biennial, which opened a route beyond Greenbergian formalism, inspiring Hoyland to re-introduce the illusion of space into his paintings.

    • William Turnbull, 1-1965, 1965
      William Turnbull, 1-1965, 1965
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    • John Golding, Untitled, 1979
      John Golding, Untitled, 1979
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    • Albert Irvin, Mansfield, 1993
      Albert Irvin, Mansfield, 1993
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  • William Crozier

    Swift's Lake, 1977 -78

    Crozier’s landscape art was perennially inspired by an obsession for particular places. His series Swift’s Lake, made in 1977 and ‘78, was inspired by the water meadows which lie immediately to the north of Winchester School of Art. Around that time, he explained to his fellow artist Ian Kirkwood that the mark of success in a landscape painting was sometimes that one had ‘extracted the very essence of the thing that is there [in a place]’.

    • John Golding, G III (Y. B.), 1978-9
      John Golding, G III (Y. B.), 1978-9
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    • Howard Hodgkin, Window (Indian Leaves), 1978
      Howard Hodgkin, Window (Indian Leaves), 1978
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    • Albert Irvin, Dorrit, 2007
      Albert Irvin, Dorrit, 2007
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  • Gillian Ayres

    Choo Choo, 1996

    From the late 1970s until the end of her life in 2018, Ayres developed a consistent approach to abstraction using thickly applied impasto, bright contrasting colours, and clearly defined painterly forms. The rare, defining quality of Ayres’s abstract painting is the bright and crisp quality of the paintwork. Every brushstroke was richly loaded with paint, posing the technical challenge of how to maintain clearly defined shapes and the integrity of each application of the brush.