Peter László Peri

Woman with Arm Folded


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Not on display

Peter László Peri 1899–1967
Pigmented concrete
Object: 400 × 130 × 130 mm
Presented by Peter Peri 2018


Woman with Arm Folded c.1950 is one of two small coloured concrete sculptures in Tate’s collection by Peter Peri (see also Woman with Hands Clasped c.1950, Tate T15118). Both are from an extensive series of sculptures known as ‘Little People’ that were begun by Peri in 1948 and depict full-length female figures with a close attention to the communicative potential of posture and gesture. Woman with Arm Folded is sculpted in blue pigmented concrete and depicts a standing adult female figure with short hair, looking to the left, dressed in a close-fitting knee-length dress with padded shoulders. Peri first exhibited such figures in his exhibition People by Peri at the Artists International Association in London in 1948 and the series occupied him for the next two decades. In these small-scale concrete sculptures he captured the gestures and postures of the ordinary people going about their daily business that he observed on the streets of London. The artist wrote about these sculptures:

I show [a street sweeper] not as a pompous heroic figure, but as a part of our surroundings … I have drawn my neighbour’s attention to another neighbour whom he passed a thousand times on the street, but to whom he never gave a second glance. I have shown that however common his work, he also is entitled to be the subject of a sculptor, since he is a member of our society.
(Quoted in Watkinson 1987, p.33.)

Prior to these sculptures Peri had used pigmented concrete in works in low relief in which he developed his technique of modelling concrete rather than casting it (see Rush Hour 1937, Tate T15116 and Building Job 1937, Tate T05035). These works also expressed his acute observations of everyday people on the streets, themes which he explored through sketches and etchings as well as sculpture (see Tate P14971P14976). Peri was one of the founder members of the Artists International Association and a key figure in politically engaged art in Britain from the 1930s. Having begun his career as a constructivist artist in Budapest and Berlin, his art developed in a socialist-realist direction and he came to Britain as a refugee in 1933. His realist depictions of London life were rooted in his constructivist principles, as the critic Anthony Blunt described in an article in The Spectator in 1936:

A great part of Peri’s recent achievement has been the introduction into a realist idiom of the clarity and simplicity which he learnt from his experiments in abstraction. Some of the low-reliefs … are in compositional method as subtle as the cut-out designs of 1920–4. In the grandest groups … the simplicity of formal arrangement is the exact expression of a psychological situation: the groups are united by play of plane and curve, but these are supported by a unity of look and feeling.
(Quoted in Watkinson 1987, p.28.)

Further reading
London Life in Concrete, exhibition catalogue, 36 Soho Square, London 1938.
Peter Peri: Memorial Exhibition Sculptures and Graphic Work, exhibition catalogue, Central Library, Swiss Cottage, London 1968.
Ray Watkinson, Fighting Spirits: Peter Peri and Cliff Rowe, exhibition catalogue, Camden Arts Centre, London 1987.

Emma Chambers
August 2018

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