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  • Roger Mayne Southam Street, with women in the foreground 1961
    Roger Mayne
    Southam Street, with women in the foreground 1961
  • Roger Mayne Teddy Boy and Girl, Petticoat Lane 1956
    Roger Mayne
    Teddy Boy and Girl, Petticoat Lane 1956
  • Jack Smith, 'Mother Bathing Child' 1953
    Jack Smith
    Mother Bathing Child 1953
    Oil on board
    support: 1829 x 1219 mm

    Purchased 1955© The estate of Jack Smith
  • Prunella Clough, 'Cooling Tower II' 1958
    Prunella Clough
    Cooling Tower II 1958
    Oil on canvas
    support: 968 x 917 x 24 mm
    frame: 1185 x 1139 x 70 mm
    Purchased 1960© The estate of Prunella Clough
  • Prunella Clough, 'Man Hosing Metal Fish Boxes' 1951
    Prunella Clough
    Man Hosing Metal Fish Boxes 1951
    Oil on canvas
    support: 921 x 520 mm
    frame: 1033 x 641 x 68 mm
    Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 1993© The estate of Prunella Clough
  • Nigel Henderson, 'Wig Stall, Petticoat Lane' 1952
    Nigel Henderson
    Wig Stall, Petticoat Lane 1952
    Black and white photograph on paper
    unconfirmed: 203 x 254 mm
    Purchased 2007© The estate of Nigel Henderson
  • Roger Mayne Girl on the steps, St Stephen's Gardens, Westbourne Park 1957
    Roger Mayne
    Girl on the steps, St Stephen's Gardens, Westbourne Park 1957
  • Lucian Freud, 'Girl with a White Dog' 1950-1
    Lucian Freud
    Girl with a White Dog 1950-1
    Oil on canvas
    support: 762 x 1016 mm
    frame: 954 x 1200 x 92 mm
    Purchased 1952© Tate
  • Michael Andrews People on the Beach (August for the People) 1951
    Michael Andrews
    People on the Beach (August for the People) 1951
  • Nick Hedges Mother and children, Balsall Heath 1969
    Nick Hedges
    Mother and children, Balsall Heath 1969

The legacy of the documentary movement of the 1930s and 1940s endured in the post-war era, as did the concern with social realism in art. Humphrey Jennings was cited as a significant influence by the group of directors associated with the Free Cinema movement, who aimed to represent ‘the whole of Britain’ by bringing regional and working-class lives to the screen.

In painting, the lines were re-drawn between two opposing concepts of realism, Modernist realism and Kitchen Sink realism, and their respective advocates, the critics David Sylvester and John Berger. Modernist realism did not involve a single identifiable style but was characterised by a concern with the human condition and the nature of existence, while Kitchen Sink realism concentrated on unheroic depictions of the everyday in still life, landscape and industrial scenes.

The influence of Spender and Trevelyan’s Mass-Observation photography is clearly discernible in Nigel Henderson’s photographs of the East End, which, like the work of friend and fellow photographer Roger Mayne, focus on the extraordinary in the everyday. Meanwhile, Nick Hedges’ photographs for the housing charity Shelter embody an impassioned sense of social purpose and sit firmly within the tradition of realist documentary.

In the 1960s, the advent of television docudramas, documentaries and regional soap operas effected a dissemination of documentary realism through popular culture. Hybridisation in film and television, involving factual treatment of fictional, realist stories, increasingly became a way to address key social issues. Ken Loach’s television drama Cathy Come Home 1966 mixed fiction with documentary research and stylistic devices (such as action-led camera) to address homelessness; it contributed decisively to the debate about the power of television in raising public awareness and the ambiguities surrounding such hybrid forms.