The term was originally used as the title of an article by the critic David Sylvester in the December 1954 issue of the journal Encounter. The article discussed the work of the realist artists known as the Beaux Arts Quartet, John Bratby, Derrick Greaves, Edward Middleditch and Jack Smith. Sylvester wrote that their work ‘takes us back from the studio to the kitchen’ and described their subjects as: ‘An inventory which includes every kind of food and drink, every utensil and implement, the usual plain furniture and even the babies’ nappies on the line. Everything but the kitchen sink – the kitchen sink too.’ Sylvester also emphasised that these kitchens were ones ‘in which ordinary people cooked ordinary food and doubtless lived their ordinary lives’.
The Kitchen Sink painters’ celebration of the everyday life of ordinary people carries implications of a social if not political comment and Kitchen Sink art can be seen to belong in the category of social realism.
Kitchen Sink reached its apogee in 1956 when the Beaux Arts Quartet were selected to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale.