Alfred East Gallery (Kettering, UK): 2020 Vision: A Contemporary View
T03216 MAN CARRYING PIG 1955
Inscribed ‘Peter Coker’ bottom right and ‘MAN CARRYING PIG/Peter Coker’ with artist's address and date ‘1955’ on back of board
Oil on hardboard, 72 × 33 (182.8 × 84.3)
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1981
Prov: Purchased from the artist through the Fieldborne Galleries by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1977
Exh: Paintings by Peter Coker, Zwemmer Gallery, January 1956 (4); Looking Forward, South London Art Gallery, April–May 1956 (10); Peter Coker RA, The Minories, Colchester, October–November 1972 and tour to Bath, London and Sheffield (6); Peter Coker: Paintings and Drawings of the Butcher's Shop, University of Liverpool, January–February 1979, and tour to Carlisle, Doncaster and Southport, ending up at the RA, July–August 1979 (9)
Lit: John Berger, ‘The Battle’, New Statesman and Nation, 21 January 1956, pp.70–2; Frederick Gore, catalogue introduction to Peter Coker RA, op.cit. (n.p.); Nicholas Coker, catalogue introduction to Peter Coker: Paintings and Drawings of the Butcher's Shop, op.cit. (n.p.)
In 1955 Coker began a series of paintings inspired by a butcher's shop (Messrs Watson, Hainault Road, Leytonstone, E.11) near where he was living. As well as the shop interior, he painted still-lifes with pig and chicken carcases, sheeps's heads, flayed hares and other animal corpses. These pictures were exhibited in his first one-man exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery in 1956, when his name became associated with the Kitchen Sink school-artists such as Jack Smith, John Bratby, Derek Greaves and Edward Middleditch, who deliberately chose as subject matter ordinary drab scenes from domestic life. The champion of this new ‘social realism’ was the critic John Berger, who singled out ‘Man Carrying Pig’ for its ‘wonderful conviction of surface and form’, and compared the work of the English artists to that of their French counterparts Minaux, Lorjou, Rebeyrolle and others, who exhibited in London in the early 1950s.
Coker's realism is matched in T03216 by a rough directness of style which recalls the French painters Courbet, Segonzac and de Staël, all of whom he admired. Paint is applied, often with a knife, in thick textured layers which emphasises the solid, physical substance of the object.
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984