10 February 2002 –
This chronological display from the Tate Collection charts a century of British art. Substantially revitalised with new works and different areas of emphasis for the year 2001, the display presents key masterpieces alongside lesser-known works and new acquisitions to create a full and varied story. Acting as a semi-permanent collection display, Modern British Art is rich in ideas and issues to be discovered by general visitors and students alike. Organised by theme and in a loose chronology, the display enables visitors to witness the common ideas held by artists throughout the century.
Modern British Art begins with Free Time, a section exploring the relationship between art and leisure before the First World War. For many young artists, modern life with its cafés, dancing, music halls and spectator sports, suited the advanced techniques which they had just learnt from their contemporaries in Paris. Important works by Duncan Grant, David Bomberg and Walter Richard Sickert are displayed together to expose the vigour and variety of British painting and sculpture at this time.
After the shock of the war, all goes quiet in British art. Innocence and Experience explores the urge amongst artists during the 1920s to retreat to the countryside, to return to traditional subjects such as still-life and to adopt a faux-naif style. Key works by Frances Hodgkins, self-taught artist Alfred Wallis, and Ben and Winifred Nicholson reveal the tentative nature of British art during this uncertain period.
Following this, Dreams and Visions examines the ways in which Surrealism affected British art during the 1930s. Works by artists such as Roland Penrose, Eileen Agar, Edward Wadsworth and Paul Nash are hung alongside each other in this room to reveal a range of ways in which the irrational and the fantastical revitalised British art.
The next theme explores Post-war Britain’s atmosphere of regeneration and renewal. Regeneration reveals the many ways in which artists responded to this environment. The so-called Kitchen Sink School of artists made gestural paintings depicting scenes of working class labour. Some artists, preferring to work with rather than comment upon society, chose to work on commissions for new public squares or buildings. Others such as Anthony Caro, used the techniques and materials of industry to create a new approach to sculpture.
The 1960s witnessed a more liberated society, full of dynamic new fashion, pop music and cinema, and partly fuelled by a love of American popular culture. This hedonism in Britain influenced a number of young artists at the time who came to be known as Pop artists. Examples of their brightly-coloured and exuberant works are here displayed in Swinging Sixties. Well-known favourites by David Hockney and Peter Blake are shown alongside lesser-known works such as a new acquisition by Pauline Boty.
Moving along, Thinking of England? charts the rise in conceptual and issue-based work in England during the 1970s and 1980s. Many artists during this period made work which critically examined the very structures of British society in the hope of bringing about positive change. Rita Donagh’s work, for example, explores the tensions in Northern Ireland. This section also includes 1980s New British Sculpture by David Mach and Bill Woodrow, often made from urban scraps to comment on the wastefulness of society.
Bringing the display to a close, Flesh and Blood examines the importance of the human form in British art of the 1990s. The work of Helen Chadwick is here included alongside a younger generation of artists, all of whom have placed the human figure centrally within their work.
As an adjunct to the display, the Focus Room enables visitors to explore key moments of British art in greater depth by presenting two small monographic or group shows each year. The Focus Room programme is showing Tate’s holdings of work by Paule Vézelay from January 2002, followed by Edward Burra in Summer 2002.
Modern British Art is on display at Tate Liverpool until early 2003. Admission is free. The gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am until 5:50pm, closed Mondays (except Bank Holiday Mondays). For recorded information, please telephone 0151 702 7402 or visit our website at www.tate.org.uk/liverpool.