Nigel HendersonScreen1949–1952 and 1969. PallantHouse Gallery, Chichester (Wilson Gift through The Art Fund 2006).

Room 4 in Spotlights

Vital Fragments: Nigel Henderson and the Art of Collage

Collage for ‘Patio and Pavilion’ (the growth of plant forms)

Nigel Henderson, Collage for ‘Patio and Pavilion’ (the growth of plant forms)  1956

Henderson studied biology at Chelsea Polytechnic in the mid-1930s. During this time, he practised dissection, studied matter through a microscope and became fascinated by the layered structure of plant and animal tissues. This collage focuses on living organisms and their internal systems and intricate forms. It was shown with the adjacent work as part of an installation entitled Patio and Pavilion in 1956. Photographs of the installation can be seen in a showcase in this display.

Gallery label, December 2019

© Nigel Henderson Estate

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Untitled No. 8 (Shattered Glass)

Nigel Henderson, Untitled No. 8 (Shattered Glass)  1959

Henderson moved to East London just after the Second World War. The area had suffered severe wartime damage. Untitled No. 8 (Shattered Glass) features shards of photographs of this bomb-blasted environment. Henderson has overpainted these in black to reinforce the impression of a scarred and fragmented urban space.

Gallery label, December 2019

© Nigel Henderson Estate

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Head of a Man

Nigel Henderson, Head of a Man  1956

Head of a Man is made from roughly layered photographs of vegetables, charred logs, stones, leaves, a shoe and a scratched wall. Henderson described the work as ‘Out of Nature and into Industry’. He began by making a smaller collage, which he photographed and enlarged. He then added more photographic cuttings and paint. Finally, he re-photographed and further enlarged the work to create this densely layered image. It was originally exhibited as part of the collaborative installation, Patio and Pavilion, in 1956.

Gallery label, December 2019

© The estate of Nigel Henderson

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Collage

Nigel Henderson, Collage  1949

At night, Henderson used his bathroom as a makeshift darkroom. He exposed negatives, enlarged images and experimented with ‘camera-less’ photography. Collage demonstrates the inventiveness of Henderson’s darkroom practice. He coated glass sheets in gouache paint or thin plaster and ‘doodled’ into these coatings with sharp tools. He then used the inscribed glass sheets as negatives to produce photographic prints. Collage is made up of several prints with oil paint added. Henderson cited experimental filmmaker Len Lye as an influence. He visited Lye and observed his method of painting abstract marks directly onto film strips.

Gallery label, December 2019

© The estate of Nigel Henderson

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Collage for ‘Patio and Pavilion’ (cycle of life and death in a pond)

Nigel Henderson, Collage for ‘Patio and Pavilion’ (cycle of life and death in a pond)  1956

In 1956, the exhibition This is Tomorrow opened at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. It included Patio and Pavilion, an installation by Henderson, artist Eduardo Paolozzi and architects Alison and Peter Smithson. This work and the collage alongside were part of Patio and Pavilion. Henderson described the theme of the installation as ‘a little garden, where reflective man may live with his artefacts in a context of nature’. This collage suggests natural cycles of decay and renewal. It was placed on the floor of Patio and Pavilion, partially covered with sand.

Gallery label, December 2019

© Nigel Henderson Estate

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  c.1951, printed later

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Nigel Henderson, Screen  1949–1952 and 1969

Henderson would often work on his larger collages over long periods. He explained that, for him, a collage remained ‘a living unit in a developing dialogue’ until it was finally varnished or framed. Henderson produced Screen, his most ambitious collage, over two decades. He worked on the first two panels between about 1949 and the early 1950s. He then added the second two panels in 1969 using a trunk of cuttings he had begun collecting just after the Second World War. He described these additional panels as a ‘pastiche’, or imitation, of the earlier pair.

Gallery label, December 2019

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  1971

This is one of Henderson’s bleakest collages. It was produced during the Vietnam War, also known as the American War (1955–75). From the roar of a panther at its top corner down to the armed policeman patrolling its base, the work offers a catalogue of violence. It also focuses on the destructive influences of technology, capitalism and celebrity. In this work, Henderson uses the fractured quality of collage to convey what he described as ‘the dreadful abstract splutter of universal machine gunning.’

Gallery label, December 2019

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  c.1949–1954, printed later

From the late 1940s until the mid-1950s, Henderson was deeply engaged in street photography. He took long walks with his camera, seeking out images that interested him. He explained that he was ‘trying to collect bits’ that he could work with later. Often, his photographs already resemble collages, such as his picture of a crowded newsagent’s window. Henderson reflected on his interest in such collage-like scenes: ‘corner shops… placarded, fly posted, glass surface panes, winking with light, faces looking out from the magazine covers and surrounded by the small necessities of life…’.

Gallery label, December 2019

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  Circa 1976

In the mid-1970s, Henderson began a series of collage works using a small, tattered print of a semi-nude woman. The image had been dropped on a bus. He reflected, ‘I imagined that it must have fallen from a wallet, where it had been conserved lovingly, gazed upon from time to time.’ He includes three adaptations of the image among symbols of play and pleasure-seeking in this triptych, or three-panel artwork. Most prominently, the found image of the woman features in the top right corner of the right panel, ringed by a misshapen dartboard.

Gallery label, December 2019

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  Circa 1976

In the mid-1970s, Henderson began a series of collage works using a small, tattered print of a semi-nude woman. The image had been dropped on a bus. He reflected, ‘I imagined that it must have fallen from a wallet, where it had been conserved lovingly, gazed upon from time to time.’ He includes three adaptations of the image among symbols of play and pleasure-seeking in this triptych, or three-panel artwork. Most prominently, the found image of the woman features in the top right corner of the right panel, ringed by a misshapen dartboard.

Gallery label, December 2019

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  c.1954–1960

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  Circa 1951

From the late 1940s until the mid-1950s, Henderson was deeply engaged in street photography. He took long walks with his camera, seeking out images that interested him. He explained that he was ‘trying to collect bits’ that he could work with later. Often, his photographs already resemble collages, such as his picture of a crowded newsagent’s window. Henderson reflected on his interest in such collage-like scenes: ‘corner shops… placarded, fly posted, glass surface panes, winking with light, faces looking out from the magazine covers and surrounded by the small necessities of life…’.

Gallery label, December 2019

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artworks in Vital Fragments: Nigel Henderson and the Art of Collage

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  Circa 1976

In the mid-1970s, Henderson began a series of collage works using a small, tattered print of a semi-nude woman. The image had been dropped on a bus. He reflected, ‘I imagined that it must have fallen from a wallet, where it had been conserved lovingly, gazed upon from time to time.’ He includes three adaptations of the image among symbols of play and pleasure-seeking in this triptych, or three-panel artwork. Most prominently, the found image of the woman features in the top right corner of the right panel, ringed by a misshapen dartboard.

Gallery label, December 2019

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Nigel Henderson, Rocket Landascape  1960

During the Second World War, Henderson served as a pilot for the RAF Coastal Command. He found the experience both visually thrilling and traumatic. It had a profound impact on his understanding of scale, perspective and abstraction. In Rocket Landscape Henderson suggests a landscape seen from a disorientating height. For him, collage provided a means to capture the shapes and textures suggested by the aerial view, where ‘rivers cut their way in necessary curves, banks cave, sand defrays the edges.’

Gallery label, December 2019

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  c.1949–1954

From the late 1940s until the mid-1950s, Henderson was deeply engaged in street photography. He took long walks with his camera, seeking out images that interested him. He explained that he was ‘trying to collect bits’ that he could work with later. Often, his photographs already resemble collages, such as his picture of a crowded newsagent’s window. Henderson reflected on his interest in such collage-like scenes: ‘corner shops… placarded, fly posted, glass surface panes, winking with light, faces looking out from the magazine covers and surrounded by the small necessities of life…’.

Gallery label, December 2019

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artworks in Vital Fragments: Nigel Henderson and the Art of Collage

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  c.1949–1954

From the late 1940s until the mid-1950s, Henderson was deeply engaged in street photography. He took long walks with his camera, seeking out images that interested him. He explained that he was ‘trying to collect bits’ that he could work with later. Often, his photographs already resemble collages, such as his picture of a crowded newsagent’s window. Henderson reflected on his interest in such collage-like scenes: ‘corner shops… placarded, fly posted, glass surface panes, winking with light, faces looking out from the magazine covers and surrounded by the small necessities of life…’.

Gallery label, December 2019

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artworks in Vital Fragments: Nigel Henderson and the Art of Collage

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Nigel Henderson, Paris wall  c.1949–1954, printed later

From the late 1940s until the mid-1950s, Henderson was deeply engaged in street photography. He took long walks with his camera, seeking out images that interested him. He explained that he was ‘trying to collect bits’ that he could work with later. Often, his photographs already resemble collages, such as his picture of a crowded newsagent’s window. Henderson reflected on his interest in such collage-like scenes: ‘corner shops… placarded, fly posted, glass surface panes, winking with light, faces looking out from the magazine covers and surrounded by the small necessities of life…’.

Gallery label, December 2019

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  c.1964

Henderson was fascinated by tattooing, which he seems to have regarded as a kind of bodily collage. He also had a keen interest in boxing. Here, he layers two photographic images to produce a single print in which the tattoo parlour and the boxing ring are brought together. In this ghostly dual portrait, the image of a tattooed woman flickers across a boxing magazine cover from 1964 featuring the young Muhammed Ali (then known as Cassius Clay).

Gallery label, December 2019

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  c.1949–1954, printed later

From the late 1940s until the mid-1950s, Henderson was deeply engaged in street photography. He took long walks with his camera, seeking out images that interested him. He explained that he was ‘trying to collect bits’ that he could work with later. Often, his photographs already resemble collages, such as his picture of a crowded newsagent’s window. Henderson reflected on his interest in such collage-like scenes: ‘corner shops… placarded, fly posted, glass surface panes, winking with light, faces looking out from the magazine covers and surrounded by the small necessities of life…’.

Gallery label, December 2019

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Nigel Henderson, Untitled  c.1949–1954

This photograph shows a sailor from a cigarette advert, a character who appears repeatedly in Henderson’s collage work. Here, the sailor’s image is partially torn away to reveal the eye of another figure buried in the thickly papered wall behind. Living in London’s East End from the mid-1940s until the mid-1950s, Henderson found himself surrounded by such examples of accidental urban collage. Looking back, he wrote that he wished he ‘could have sung the song of every small blotch and blister, of every patch and stain on road and pavement.’

Gallery label, December 2019

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Art in this room

Collage for ‘Patio and Pavilion’ (the growth of plant forms)
Nigel Henderson Collage for ‘Patio and Pavilion’ (the growth of plant forms) 1956
Untitled No. 8 (Shattered Glass)
Nigel Henderson Untitled No. 8 (Shattered Glass) 1959
Head of a Man
Nigel Henderson Head of a Man 1956
Collage
Nigel Henderson Collage 1949
Collage for ‘Patio and Pavilion’ (cycle of life and death in a pond)
Nigel Henderson Collage for ‘Patio and Pavilion’ (cycle of life and death in a pond) 1956

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Nigel Henderson Untitled c.1951, printed later

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