Dear Henry Tate,
The avant-garde artists in the early twentieth century aimed to distance themselves from the excesses of fin-de-siècle symbolism and all realist figurative art that had come before. They wanted, as Malevich put it, to ‘free art from the burden of the object… swim in the white free abyss’. Such was abstraction’s success, some felt that there was no way back to figuration, especially after 1945 when realist art had to struggle with the reputation of being anti-modern, naïve, or a style used for ideological purposes by both the fascists and socialists. However, in the 1960s, when art focused on the modern world’s effect on everyday life, many artists began to look at a reality of photographic pictures; of a surface ‘in between’ the eye and the world they were representing. Some have defined this as hyper-realism. Horst Bredekamp and Barbara Maria Stafford trace the roots of hyper-realism through the centuries, from Albrecht Dürer and Joris Hoefnagel to the contemporary photo-realism of Franz Gertsch and Chuck Close. Another practitioner is Malcolm Morley, who prefers to call his meticulous images ‘fidelity painting’.
Both abstraction and realism have always seemed diametrically opposed to the fantastic, the dreamy and the romantic. So it is no surprise that the Swiss artist Henry Fuseli complained of Dürer’s ‘disgusting naturalism’. His painting The Nightmare is the centrepiece of Tate Britain’s Gothic Nightmares; Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination – an image borne out of bad dreams. In turn, his fantasies upset the sleep of others, including Benjamin Haydon, who thought that ‘the engines in Fuseli’s mind are blasphemy, lechery and blood’.
While attitudes and opinions may change, artists are forever nourished by what has come before. Peter Fischli’s art has been shaped by his upbringing in a lively Bauhaus home designed by his father, Daria Martin’s films are inspired by Modernist art and architecture, including the work of Moholy-Nagy, and here, Peter Peri pays contemporary homage to Dürer.
Something else, dear Henry, might have caught your eye. It’s the sticker on the cover carrying your name, which introduces our special project created by The Wrong Gallery – Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni and Ali Subotnick – to coincide with the installation of The Wrong Gallery at Tate Modern. You’ll be particularly glad to see the image of Millais’s Ophelia, a painting that you gave to the nation in 1894.
With best wishes
Bice Curiger and Simon Grant
‘Documentary is intrinsically aesthetic,’ argues Mark Cousins, ‘it is as much about shots and cuts, structure and rhythm as fiction film.’ From the work of John Grierson and Allen Funt’s Candid Camera to Michael Apted’s 7 Up and works by Gillian Wearing, Cousins charts the development of documentary film through the decades.
László Moholy-Nagy moved to London in 1935 and quickly established himself at the heart of the avant-garde community in the newly designed Lawn Road Flats of London’s leafy Hampstead. He brought with him his belief in ‘nature as a constructional model,’ to determine functionality in art and design.
Peter Fischli grew up in a Bauhaus home designed by his father Hans Fischli, an artist and architect who had studied in Dessau. He talks to us exclusively about his early years surrounded by the spirit of the Bauhaus; ‘I was fascinated by the way he led his life…He often painted at night, listening to jazz records…At the weekend, students, fellow artists and teachers would come and have parties…I was spellbound.’
László Moholy-Nagy established himself at the heart of the avant-garde community. Stuart Bailey assesses his importance as a graphic designer.
Joseph Albers was one of the finest art teachers of the twentieth century. Victor Moscoso remembers him both as a showman and a master, whose colour classes ‘drove everyone crazy,’ Robert Mangold and Gabriel Orozco admire his work
Designer Paul Elliman seeks satisfaction of his curiosity and the typefaces designed by Josef Albers while at the Bauhaus in the 1920s
Olivia Plender looks at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea, one of the first Modernist buildings of its kind in the UK, and watches Daria Martin shoot a film there.
Lisa Liebmann looks at the events surrounding the unveiling of the Mona Lisa at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, in 1963.
Malcolm Morley was an early practitioner of superrealist painting. He then won the first Turner Prize in 1984 after having moved to a looser style of brushwork. In recent years his work has reached a new maturity in what he calls his “fidelity painting”.
What is hyperrealism? Work which feels more real than reality? Or a way of ‘mastering God’s creations’ ? Horst Bredekamp and Barbara Maria Stafford look at the meticulous portrait paintings of Albrecht Dürer, Joris Hoefnagel, Richard Phillips, Chuck Close and others.
Lynda Nead looks at a number of pioneering short films at the turn of the twentieth century that took the artist’s studio as their subject, such as Thomas Edison’s An Artist’s Dream.
Peter Davidson, Bjorn van der Horst, Pelé Cox and Billy Childish reflect on a work in the Tate Collection.
The gothic has remained one of the most universal genres, which has attracted writers, filmmakers, musicians and artists across the centuries
In his second visit to the Tate archive Lawrence Norfolk looks for clues about W S Sickert among his donated possessions.