12 rooms in Walk Through British Art
Discover the abstract art that artists in Britain were exploring throughout the 1950s
The 1950s was a period of great change and experimentation in British art. New and contrasting styles of abstraction emerged. Artists began to use spontaneity of gesture and chance to express a new found freedom of artistic expression. Others followed mathematic principles of geometry and proportion in their construction.
Abstraction involves simplification of a form, figure or object. Many of the artists in this display based their abstractions on landscapes or still lifes. This approach to painting was sometimes referred to as ‘allusive abstraction’ or ‘abstract impressionism’.
Other artists constructed painting and sculptures using found elements that did not directly reference an observed reality. This movement, known as constructivism, emerged between the First and Second World War and was returned to in the 1950s.
American approaches to abstraction also became increasingly dominant in Britain after the mid-1950s. A style of painting had been developing among a number of artists in New York, known as abstract expressionism. British artists were interested in the way these artists embraced ambitious scale, simplified compositions, bold use of colour and spatial illusion in ways that emphasised the physical act of painting. French artists were following a similar approach, but often with a greater focus on the material qualities of paint. This attitude to making was equally influential on artists working in Britain at the time.
Curated by Andrew Wilson
Art in this room
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Art in 1950