Sunday, August 5, 2018

Brightly Painted in the Nineteen Fifties

William Turnbull
No. 1 1959
1958-59
oil on canvas
Tate Gallery

Graham Sutherland
Hydrant II
1954
oil on canvas
Tate Gallery

Ray Parker
Untitled
1959
oil on canvas
Tate Gallery

from Modernist Painting

"Most of the things that get written about Modernist art still belong to journalism rather than to criticism or art history.  It belongs to journalism – and to the millennial complex from which so many journalists and journalist intellectuals suffer in our day – that each new phase of Modernist art should be hailed as the start of a whole new epoch in art, marking a decisive break with all the customs and conventions of the past.  Each time, a kind of art is expected so unlike all previous kinds of art, and so free from norms of practice or taste, that everybody, regardless of how informed or uninformed he happens to be, can have his say about it.  And each time, this expectation has been disappointed, as the phase of Modernist art in question finally takes its place in the intelligible continuity of taste and tradition."

"Nothing could be further from the authentic art of our time than the idea of a rupture of continuity.  Art is – among other things – continuity, and unthinkable without it.  Lacking the past of art, and the need and compulsion to maintain its standards of excellence, Modernist art would lack both substance and justification."

– Clement Greenberg, from Arts Yearbook, 1961

Roy de Maistre
Still-life: Fruit
1954
oil on canvas
Tate Gallery

Roy de Maistre
Vegetable Still-life
1956
oil on board
Tate Gallery

Patrick Heron
Harbour Window with Two Figures: St Ives: July
1950
oil on hardboard
Tate Gallery

Patrick Heron
Azalea Garden: May 1956
1956
oil on canvas
Tate Gallery

Nicolas de Stael
Landscape Study
1952
oil on board
Tate Gallery

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham
Red Form
1954
oil on hardboard
Tate Gallery

Roger Hilton
Untitled
1953
oil on canvas
Tate Gallery

from Statement

"That pigment on canvas has a way of initiating conventional reactions for most people needs no reminder.  Behind these reactions is a body of history matured into dogma, authority, tradition.  The totalitarian hegemony of this tradition I despise, its presumptions I reject.  Its security is an illusion, banal, and without courage.  Its substance is but dust and filing cabinets.  The homage paid to it is a celebration of death.  We all bear the burden of this tradition on our backs but I cannot hold it a privilege to be a pallbearer of my spirit in its name.'

"From the most ancient times the artist has been expected to perpetuate the values of his contemporaries.  The record is mainly one of frustration, sadism, superstition, and the will to power.  What greatness of life crept into the story came from sources not yet fully understood, and the temples of art which burden the landscape of nearly every city are a tribute to the attempt to seize this elusive quality and stamp it out.  . . .  We are now committed to an unqualified act, not illustrating outworn myths or contemporary alibis.  One must accept total responsibility for what he executes.  And the measure of his greatness will be in the depth of his insight and his courage in realizing his own vision. . . .  Demands for communication are both presumptuous and irrelevant.  The observer usually will see what his fears and hopes and learning teach him to see.  But if he can escape these demands that hold up a mirror to himself, then perhaps some of the implications of the work may be felt."

– Clyfford Still, from 15 Americans, published by the Museum of Modern Art, 1952

Martin Froy
Young Man Doing Up his Shoe
1951-52
oil on board
Tate Gallery

Fernand L├ęger
Two Women Holding Flowers
1954
oil on canvas
Tate Gallery

Pablo Picasso
The Studio
1955
oil on canvas
Tate Gallery

Ceri Richards
Cycle of Nature
1955
oil on canvas
Tate Gallery