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VICTOR PASMORE Space as Motif WORKS FROM 1960–70


VICTOR PASMORE


22 February – 30 March 2019

VICTOR PASMORE Space as Motif WORKS FROM 1960–70

Marlborough Fine Art 6 Albemarle Street London W1S 4BY +44 (0)20 7629 5161 mfa@marlboroughfineart.com www.marlboroughlondon.com


“All art is the search for the Sublime and the Beautiful.“ Victor Pasmore, 1964

VICTOR PASMORE: A PECULIAR BEAUTY Chris Stephens, Director of Holburne Museum, Bath One of the thrills of being a curator, as opposed to any other sort of art historian, is that one has the opportunity to bring about and to see the revelations that result from bringing one object in close physical relation to another. To select an exhibition, or to hang a gallery, is as much an act of investigation itself as it is the outcome of research. In my experience, this was most forcibly brought home when I had the privilege of hanging a display of Victor Pasmore’s work at Tate Britain in celebration of the artist’s centenary in 2008. At the beginning of my career at the Tate, in the mid-1990s, I had catalogued in detail the Gallery’s collection of Pasmore paintings, reliefs and constructions. As well as briefly meeting Victor himself, a year or so before he died, this project offered the opportunity of looking closely, researching and thinking in depth about each of the individual works as well as the artist’s career more broadly. With my colleague, I closely scrutinised each of the works in the Tate’s collection. In particular, alerted by our knowledge of Victor’s theoretical interests and one or two books that had influenced him, we measured the works, observing the geometry that seemed to underlie most of their compositions. Geometrical formulae, and in particular the Golden Section, appeared

again and again in the pictures’ make-up, one or two of the paintings even having those proportions measured out at the edges of the canvas. We drove our editor mad with our apparent obsession with the Golden Section. He, in turn, drove us mad with his insistence on identifying the exact spot from which Pasmore must have looked west from Hammersmith to Chiswick to have composed The Quite River, perhaps the most sublimely beautiful of his Thames paintings. Much to my annoyance and surprise, having stomped down to Hammersmith one gloriously sunny afternoon, I found it was possible to find a spot on the riverbank that afforded exactly the view in the painting. With a further visit to the local archive, I was also able to establish that, despite all the mysterious poetry of the misty sunset with its phantasmal figures, many of Pasmore’s forms could be precisely identified: the twin masts of a ship moored permanently on the north side of Chiswick Eyot, for example, or the protruding canopy of the malt factory, on the right-hand edge, the smell from which then dominated the riverside. Empirical, visual facts and flights of the imagination co-habit comfortably, naturally, in Pasmore’s art. This is nicely illustrated by one of the many great, early works that


Victor Pasmore in his studio, 1965

once belonged to Pasmore’s foremost patron Kenneth Clark. The small 1945 Penguin Modern Painters book on the artist, with an introduction by Clive Bell, includes Clark’s A Winter Morning, 1944, one of numerous paintings Pasmore made based on his garden at Hammersmith Terrace. The 1980 catalogue raisonné reproduces a painting – The Bird Garden: Winter Morning, 1944-6 – which, though clearly different, seems to share certain identical details. The explanation, I discovered, is that a couple of years after Clark bought the painting, Victor borrowed it back and, when it was returned, it transpired that he had reworked the picture, removing a number of the more mundane details, adding some elements and, most fundamentally, turning the whole into a snow scene. Observed reality and artistic construction compete or converge in Pasmore’s art, and that is as true for the abstract work as it is for the representational. That Pasmore ‘going abstract’ in the late 1940s marked a key moment in modern British art history has become a cliché. It was grabbed, I suspect, by the advocates of a modernist abstraction, notably Herbert Read, as a symbol of their victory over those fighting for a more moderate modern figuration, led by Clark. Explaining to the Art Gallery of South

Australia why he proposed for acquisition so many paintings by Pasmore, Clark wrote that he believed him to be one of the two or three most important British painters of the twentieth-century but added, pointedly, that he doubted the artist would ever produce such good work again. Pasmore, in this narrative, had shifted camp and abandoned a representational art that drew on the paintings of the past for a constructivist utopia that continued the ideals of the 1930s into the 1950s. The problem with this story is twofold. Firstly, by rightly seeking to position Pasmore in an international movement, critics and historians risked reinforcing the idea of British belatedness. Despite attempts in recent years to draw parallels between constructivist abstraction in Britain and in Latin America, this view persists, I fear. Secondly, this Pauline view of Pasmore’s development obscures the essential, personal qualities that continue in his art from before the Damascene conversion through to the decades afterwards. When I planned that centenary display of all of the Tate’s Pasmore paintings and reliefs in a single space, I imagined having to hang the room chronologically so that a visitor, as they passed through the room, would journey from the atmospheric interior of Lamplight of 1941 to the


Victor Pasmore painting his mural for the Tate Gallery retrospective exhibition, 1965

organic abstraction of the spray-painted Green Earth, 1979-80. This room would hinge around some invisible line across the middle where the stylised landscapes of 1950 interleaved with the Picasso-esque abstract collages of a year earlier; or should one hang it linearly, so that a visitor walked around the room, not through it? In the event, when the works were all brought together in the same room the great revelation was that this notion of a fundamental divide was complete nonsense. It became immediately apparent that all of the works, whether painted with brush or spray-can, even if painted or constructed, in wood, Perspex or Formica, sat comfortably together because they shared the same principles and the same sensibility. It is, no doubt, a revelation that would have been obvious to Victor and, perhaps, to any artist. Each of the works has an internal dynamic, based on but not strictly dictated by theories of geometry. We know Pasmore was reading such texts as Jay Hambidge’s The Elements of Dynamic Symmetry after it was republished in 1948 but it is clear he used geometrical proportions to compose his work earlier than that. To

these theories of geometry and proportion was added his study of theories of growth, in particular the writing of D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, whose On Growth and Form had been embraced by numerous artists following its republication during the war. Thompson’s account of the way a ‘peculiar beauty’ resulted from the natural, incremental development of organic form, informed the nature of Pasmore’s constructions and, later, those paintings in which the composition appears to have been determined by a progressive development from or around a single element as epitomised in the newly-uncovered mural that he made for his 1965 Tate retrospective. Indeed, as the selection of works in this exhibition makes clear, it was in the 1960s that Pasmore seems to have accepted the consistency running through his work and capitalised upon it. A profile in the May 1964 edition of the Studio magazine recorded his return to painting, the artist noting that he now recognised that he was at heart a painter – not a sculptor or an architect (though he had been designing an area of Peterlee new town for some years by then) – and that ‘virtually all the elements of my later


stages’ could be seen in his early landscapes. In a small space of time, around 1964/5, we see Pasmore working with paint, making constructions with elements that project out towards the viewer or which reach down or across beyond the edge of the backboard, and reprising some of his earlier constructed forms. He seems to play with this new eclecticism: he paints on plywood, leaving the support visible so that the painting appears like a construction (an effect enhanced when he bends the board); he begins to combine the new, painting style of organic masses of colour with constructed elements; he progresses from the constructions that reach out horizontally by painting forms which exceed the edges of their support, drawing a meandering line from the painted board, over its edge and on to the backboard, in a work like Linear Image with Five Colours, as if interpreting literally Paul Klee’s idea of ‘taking a line for a walk’. So Pasmore, in the 1960s, synthesised different

distinctive, however, is something less definable, more poetic which unites everything he made. Terry Frost once told me how Pasmore had drummed the importance of the Golden Section into him as a student at Camberwell in the late 1940s, adding that only late in life had Pasmore realised that the ratio he had been using for most of his career was actually slightly wrong. Frost’s anecdotes were famously more amusing than they were accurate but it is the case, in my experience, that the geometric relations in Pasmore’s compositions are often almost, but not quite, precise. For all his fascination with theory and his use of geometry, Pasmore was first and foremost an intuitive artist. While drawing upon such formal disciplines and fundamental notions, he recognised the primary importance of the individual touch of the artist. And what a touch he had! Whether the gentle dab of oil paint, the cutting of a line through Formica or the placement of an elongated member protruding over the edge of a relief every move Pasmore

elements of his art. Underlying compositional principles and a dynamic but managed asymmetry that seems to confound those principles are two of the characteristics that run through all of that work. More significant and

made embodies his quirky and wholly distinctive sensibility. He might have based his works on those theories and rules but he knew he could improve upon them with his instinctive poet’s eye.


LIST OF WORKS Abstract in White, Black and Maroon, 1962 -1963

Linear Image with Five Colours, 1968 -69

Blue Development in Three Movements, 1969

projective relief construction, curved surface (painted wood and plastic) 68.5 x 73.5 x 12 cm (27 x 28⅞ x 4⅝ in.) B&L 269

oil on board 123.6 x 123.6 cm (48⅝ x 48⅝ in.) B&L 412

oil on board 123 x 183.5 cm (48⅜ x 72⅛ in.) B&L 426

Green Development, 1969

Linear Symmetry in Three Movements, 1969

Abstract in Black, White and Mahogany, 1965 -66

oil on plastic 123 x 123 cm (48⅜ x 48⅜ in.) B&L 431

projective relief construction, transparent (paint, natural wood and plastic) 122 x 122 x 36 cm (48 x 48 x 14 in.) B&L 374

oil on curved panel 122 x 51 x 12 cm (48 x 20 x 4⅝ in.) B&L 428

Projective Relief Construction in White, Black and Maroon, 1967 painted wood and plastic 123 x 123 x 26.5 cm (48⅜ x 48⅜ x 10⅜ in.) B&L 394

Grey Symphony, 1968 -77 oil on board 240 x 183 cm (93 x 72 in.) B&L 652

Line and Space, 1960 oil on board 68.6 x 73.7 cm (27 x 29 in.) B&L 221

Linear Construction, 1967 oil and gravure on board on formica 124.5 x 124 cm (49 x 48¾ in.) B&L 395

Mural Painting for Pasmore Exhibition, Tate Gallery, 1965 cellulose on linen B&L 369

Golden Ochre, Brown Image, 1964 oil on board 122.5 x 119.4 cm (48⅛ x 47 in.) B&L 337

Abstract in White, Black, Maroon and Indigo, 1963 projective relief (painted wood and plastic) 122 x 122 x 27.5 cm (48 x 48 x 10¾ in.) B&L 287

Abstract in White and Black, 1963 relief construction, transparent (painted wood and plastic) 68.5 x 73.5 x 13.5 cm (27 x 28⅞ x 5¼ in.) B&L 279

Points of Contact, Green Development, 1966 projective painting (oil on plastic and wood) 123 x 123 x 27.7 cm (48⅜ x 48⅜ x 10¾ in.) B&L 385

Blue Development (Indigo) no.4, 1964 black chalk, composition and oil on wood 82 x 82 x 21.5 cm (32¼ x 32¼ x 8⅜ in.) B&L 320

Green and Indigo Development no.3, 1965 oil on board 155 x 155 cm (61 x 61 in.) B&L 358 B&L refers to: Alan Bowness and Luigi Lambertini, Victor Pasmore, Catalogue Raisonné, Thames and Hudson, London, 1980.


Abstract in White, Black and Maroon, 1962 -1963 projective relief construction, curved surface (painted wood and plastic) 68.5 x 73.5 x 12 cm (27 x 28â…ž x 4â…? in.) B&L 269


Green Development, 1969 oil on curved panel 122 x 51 x 12 cm (48 x 20 x 4â…? in.) B&L 428


Projective Relief Construction in White, Black and Maroon, 1967 painted wood and plastic 123 x 123 x 26.5 cm (48⅜ x 48⅜ x 10⅜ in.) B&L 394


Grey Symphony, 1968 -77 oil on board 240 x 183 cm (93 x 72 in.) B&L 652


Line and Space, 1960 oil on board 68.6 x 73.7 cm (27 x 29 in.) B&L 221


Linear Construction, 1967 oil and gravure on board on formica 124.5 x 124 cm (49 x 48ž in.) B&L 395


Linear Image with Five Colours, 1968 - 69 oil on board 123.6 x 123.6 cm (48⅝ x 48⅝ in.) B&L 412


Linear Symmetry in Three Movements, 1969 oil on plastic 123 x 123 cm (48⅜ x 48⅜ in.) B&L 431


Mural Painting for Pasmore Exhibition, Tate Gallery, 1965 cellulose on linen B&L 369


Golden Ochre, Brown Image, 1964 oil on board 122.5 x 119.4 cm (48â…› x 47 in.) B&L 337


Abstract in White, Black, Maroon and Indigo, 1963 projective relief (painted wood and plastic) 122 x 122 x 27.5 cm (48 x 48 x 10ž in.) B&L 287


Abstract in White and Black, 1963 relief construction, transparent (painted wood and plastic) 68.5 x 73.5 x 13.5 cm (27 x 28â…ž x 5Âź in.) B&L 279


Blue Development in Three Movements, 1969 oil on board 123 x 183.5 cm (48⅜ x 72⅛ in.) B&L 426


Abstract in Black, White and Mahogany, 1965 - 66 projective relief construction, transparent (paint, natural wood and plastic) 122 x 122 x 36 cm (48 x 48 x 14 in.) B&L 374


Points of Contact, Green Development, 1966 projective painting (oil on plastic and wood) 123 x 123 x 27.7 cm (48⅜ x 48⅜ x 10¾ in.) B&L 385


Blue Development (Indigo) no.4, 1964 black chalk, composition and oil on wood 82 x 82 x 21.5 cm (32¼ x 32¼ x 8⅜ in.) B&L 320


Green and Indigo Development no.3, 1965 oil on board 155 x 155 cm (61 x 61 in.) B&L 358


BIOGRAPHY

1908 Born in Surrey, England 1923-26 Studied at Harrow Art School 1927-32 Studied at Central School of Arts and Design 1932-34 Elected member of the London Artists’ Association, offshoot of the Bloomsbury Group 1949-53 Visiting teacher at Central School of Arts and Crafts 1954-61 Appointed Master of Painting, King’s College, Durham University 1955-77 Collaborates on the development of Peterlee New Town, Durham 1959 Awarded CBE 1963-66 Appointed Trustee of Tate Gallery 1964 Awarded Carnegie Prize for Painting 1966 Acquires house in Malta 1969-70 Apollo Pavilion, Peterlee, Durham (now listed grade II) 1982 Awarded CH 1983 Elected Senior Royal Academician 1998 Died in Malta

SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2017  Victor Pasmore: Between Risk and Equilibrium, Marlborough Fine Art 2016-17 Victor Pasmore: Towards a New Reality, Djanogly Galley, Nottingham; travelling to Pallant House, Chichester 2015 Victor Pasmore in Three Dimensions, Hatton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne 2011-12 Victor Pasmore: From Constructions to Spray Paint, New Art Centre, Roche Court 2009 Apollo Pavilion relaunched after refurbishment 2008 Centenery Exhibition, Marlborough Fine Art, London 2004 Marlborough Fine Art, London 1999 Marlborough Fine Art, London 1997 Rufford Gallery, Ollerton 1996 De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill 1995 Marlborough Fine Art, London Retrospective, Isle of Man

1992 Marlborough Fine Art, London Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Cumbria 1991  Retrospective Exhibition, Serpentine Gallery, London Veranneman Foundation, Kruishoutem, Belgium Marlborough Gallery, London 1990 Marlborough Gallery, Tokyo  Graphics Exhibition, Taormina d’ Arte 90, Sicily  Retrospective Exhibition, Centre for International Contemporary Arts, New York 1988-89 Marlborough Gallery, New York Marlborough Fine Art, London 1988-89 Retrospective Exhibition, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; Phillips Collection, Washington 1986 Graphics Exhibition, Galleria 2RC, Rome and Milan 1985 Musée des Beaux Arts, Calais 1982 Panova Gallery, Toronto  Graphics Exhibition, Kasahara Gallery, Osaka 1982 Graphics Exhibition, Galleria 2RC, Rome and Milan Galerie Corinthia, Klagenfurt, Austria 1981 Graphics Exhibition, Amano Gallery, Osaka 1980 Arts Council Retrospective Exhibition, tours Britain 1978 Musée des Beaux Arts, Chaux de Fonds Gentofte Radhus, Copenhagen Graphics Exhibition, Galleria 2RC, Rome and Milan 1976 Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg Fabian Fine Art, Cape Town 1975 Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta, Malta 1974 Galleria 2RC, Rome Marlborough Galleria d’Arte, Rome Galerie Farber, Brussels 1973 Marlborough Gallerie, Zurich Villiers Pty., Australia 1970 Malta Society of Arts, Valletta 1967 Marlborough Gerson Gallery, New York Ulster Museum, Belfast Trinity College, Dublin Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester University Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University


1965 Sao Paulo Biennal VIII, Sao Paulo  Retrospective Exhibition, Tate Gallery, London Scottish Gallery of Modern Art Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool Galleria Lorenzelli, Milan 1964 Galleria Lorenzelli, Milan 1963-64 Tate Gallery, London 1963 Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich  Victor Pasmore and William Scott, Kunsthalle, Berne 1962 Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover 1960 XXX Venice Biennale, Venice and tour 1955  Retrospective exhibition 1926-54, Arts Council Gallery, Cambridge 1947 Redfern Gallery, London 1939 Wildenstein Gallery, London 1932 Association’s Cooling Gallery, London

LITERATURE Anne Goodchild, Alistair Grieve and Elena Crippa, Victor Pasmore: Towards a New Reality, Lund Humphries, London, 2016. Alistair Grieve, Victor Pasmore, Tate Publishing, London, 2010. Norbert Lynton, Victor Pasmore: Paintings and Graphics 1980-92, Lund Humphries, London, 1992. Norbert Lynton, Pasmore Retrospective Exhibition Catalogue, Centre for International Contemporary Arts, New York, 1990. Alan Bowness and Luigi Lambertini, Victor Pasmore Catalogue Raisonné, Thames & Hudson, London, 1980. Ronald Alley, Victor Pasmore: Retrospective Exhibition 1925- 1965, Tate Gallery, London, 1965. Clive Bell, Victor Pasmore, Penguin Books, London, 1945.

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth Art Institute of Chicago Arts Council Collection, London Ashmolean Museum, Oxford Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery Bristol Museum and Art Gallery British Council Collection, London Bury Art Museum Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford

Derby Museums and Art Gallery Ferens Art Gallery, Hull Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome Government Art Collection, London Graves Gallery, Sheffield Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle Leeds Art Gallery Manchester Art Gallery Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux Musée des Beaux-Arts, Calais Musée des Beaux-Arts, La Chaux-de-Fonds Museo Tamayo, Mexico City Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam Museum des 20. Jarhunderts, Vienna Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta Museum of Modern Art, New York Museo Tamayo, Mexico City National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum (Former), Wellington National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne National Museum, Cardiff New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester Nottingham City Museum and Galleries Pallant House Gallery, Chichester Royal Academy of Arts, London Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh Southampton City Art Gallery Syracuse University, New York Tate, London The Hepworth, Wakefield The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds The Whitworth, University of Manchester Towner, Eastbourne Ulster Museum, Belfast University of Liverpool Victor Pasmore Gallery, Valletta Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester Yale Center for British Art, New Haven York Art Gallery


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ISBN 978-1-909707-56-6 Catalogue no. 784 Cover: Victor Pasmore with a suspended relief construction, 1963 Photography: Luke Walker and Mark Dalton Photographs of the Artist: John Pasmore Design: Bright Design London Print: Impress Print Services Š 2019 Marlborough


Profile for Marlborough Fine Art

Victor Pasmore: Space as Motif – Works from 1960-70  

Online exhibition catalogue for 'Victor Pasmore: Space as Motif – Works from 1960-70', showing at Marlborough Fine Art, London, in 2019.

Victor Pasmore: Space as Motif – Works from 1960-70  

Online exhibition catalogue for 'Victor Pasmore: Space as Motif – Works from 1960-70', showing at Marlborough Fine Art, London, in 2019.