Romantics, room guide, Neo-Romantics

Graham Sutherland OM, ‘A Foundry: Hot Metal has been Poured into a Mould and Inflammable Gas is Rising’ 1941–2
Graham Sutherland OM
A Foundry: Hot Metal has been Poured into a Mould and Inflammable Gas is Rising 1941–2

On display until 9 April 2012

The 1940s artists loosely defined by contemporary critics as Neo-Romantics looked back to Romantic British visionaries such as William Blake and Samuel Palmer. Yet in the Thirties Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland had also been influenced by Continental developments, and Picasso and the Surrealists in particular. John Piper had been committed to abstract art for a time but wrote of his quest for a ‘valuable object’ – representation.

They infused their images of landscape with a human presence and a visual poetry – Nash’s ‘genius loci’ (the spirit of place) – but also with unease prompted by the events leading to the Second World War (1939–45). Henry Moore’s work was often seen as related, while illustration, theatre design and even films of the period showed Neo-Romantic tendencies.

Ayrton, Hurry and Vaughan came to prominence during the war, conveying emotion through heightened imagery. Painters such as John Minton, John Craxton, Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde worked in the same mood for a while. This display ends at the point where the inward-looking, literary intensity of the war years became dispelled in a general reconnection with European culture, eventually giving way to international movements from Abstract Expressionism to Pop.

This display has been devised by curator Matthew Imms.

See also