Category Archives: From 1945 to the present

Research Point: British Art

I am lucky that Liverpool has in addition to the traditional Art Galleries ‘Tate Liverpool‘ down at The Albert Dock so I have chosen to do some research on it.

Tate-Liverpool(c) Susan Devonport

A potted history behind the gallery can be found here.

A sad event in the long history of my home city was the catalyst for the setting up of a home for the National collection of Modern Art in this part of the country.  I am of course talking about the Toxteth riots of 1981.  The Director of the Tate at the time approached the newly appointed Minister for Merseyside Michael Hestletine with a proposal for ‘A Tate of the North’ and the rest as they say is history.

In 1981 Albert Dock had been derelict since 1972 but the Merseyside Maritime Museum leased one of the warehouses and bars and restaurants started to open and it is now a thriving tourist destination.  Another derelict warehouse was chosen to house Tate Liverpool and in 1985 the architect James Stirling was commissioned to convert the building.   He left the outside virtually intact but the inside was converted into simple galleries suitable for displaying modern art.

Tate Liverpool floor plan

The gallery opened to the public in May 1988 but I’m ashamed to say that my first visit was not until 20 years later in the Summer of 2008 to see the Gustav Klimt exhibition that took place during Liverpool’s successful year as European Capital of Culture.

I think one of the reasons that it took until then to visit was because you have to pay to see the major exhibitions and looking back at past exhibitions there were very few that peaked my interest, though I’m sorry to see that I missed Degas and Hockney.  Last year I went to my first OCA study visit ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and a group of fellow students got together to see the ‘Turner, Monet, Twombly‘ exhibition last September.  It was great to be with like minded people to look at the works instead of by myself as I usually am.


Research Point: Abstract sculptors

Find out more about one or more abstract sculptors working after 1950.  You might decide to look at the work of a household name, like Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth or Robert Morris, but there are plenty more to choose from – Alexander Calder, Christopher Le Brun, Eduoardo Paolozzi, David Smith, Hans Arp, Andy Goldsworthy, Anthony Caro and Louse Nevelson and more.

I was familiar with the works of i.e. Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Anthony Caro but I had to Google the rest.  None of them caught my eye until I saw the work of Andy Goldsworthy.  Perhaps it is because I am  studying for a degree in Textiles but I was immediately drawn to the textural quality of his sculptors so I’ve chose to find out more about him and his work.

Andy Goldsworthy was born in Cheshire in 1956 and now lives in the village of Penpont, Dumfriesshire,in Scotland.

Some of his works add an extra dimension to the landscapes that they are in but on another level some of them blend in and become part of it.  Many of his sculptures are ephemeral in nature so he takes photographs of them so he has a record of them before they disappear.

I particularly like this piece made from Sweet Chestnut leaves and thorns as I can see it being a sculpture in textiles as well as the materials Andy has used.

artwork_images_424058108_734011_andy-goldsworthy(c) Andy Goldsworthy

If you put his name in to YouTube you can find dozens of videos on him, below are just a few that I found most useful and interesting.

I can see myself looking at more of his work when I go on to Level 2 modules for my Textiles degree later this year.


Exercise: Reflecting on abstract expressionism

What is Abstract Expressionism?

This web page puts into words what Abstract Expressionism is better than I could.  From my reading of it there are 2 styles –

  • Action Painting by artists such as Jackson Pollack who found his own way of expressing himself by dripping and pouring the paint on to canvas laid out on the floor.
  • Colour Field Painting by artists like Mark Rothko who used large expanses of colour on his canvases to express his feelings.

An interesting set of videos from 2010 showing the MoMA Abstract Expressionism Exhibition.

and a student resource page from MoMA ‘What is Abstract Expressionism’.

  • In your opinion, to what extent does a concern with elemental humanity represent a reaction to the cataclysmic events of 1939-45 and the displacement of so many Europeans, including a number of artists, in the wake of the Second World War?

I’m sure for artists that lived through the events of World War II that it would surely have taken a person with no feelings for their fellow man for it not to have  had a profound effect on their art works produced after this period.  Abstract Expressionism set out to depict their feelings and reactions to this period of history but not in any realistic way.

  • Rothko said that, ‘The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them.  And if you, as you say, are moved only by their colour relationships, then you miss the point’ (p. 838).  Does it matter if viewers of art works ‘miss the point’ provided that they take something from it?

As I’ve only seen Rothko’s work in books or on TV I only see blocks of colour so can’t really comment on the ‘religious experience’ he mentions, perhaps if I could stand in front of one of his paintings I may experience it?

  • Is it possible to make any sort of formal analysis of these artists’ works – or of the Pop Art discussed on pp. 845-77?

It is difficult to analyze art works from this period compared with earlier works.  You can write about colour, shape, texture and other technical aspects of a painting but they can be difficult to read – for instance what is the artist trying to say?

Chapter 21 Post-War to Post-Modern

  • New York superseded Paris as the focal point for Art after 194
  • The exodus of intellectuals and artists from persecution in mainland Europe before the war led to the decline of Europe as the focus for Art
  • Abstract Art had been strong in the USA in the early decade of the 20th century – artists there were usually loners
  • The New York artist such as Pollack, Rothko and de Kooning etc painted in an uncontrolled and haphazard way while some were austere and self-restrained
  • It was the critics who gave them the title of Abstract Expressionist not the artists themselves, they had no manifesto