Ben Nicholson: Crowned head - the queen 1932At present I am surrounded by thoughts of work and artists who have been inspirations to me for many years. Last week we went to two most enjoyable exhibitions: feasts for both eye and brain. On Wednesday we went to Modern Art Oxford to see Graham Sutherland, An Unfinished World - a show of GS's landscape paintings. The second exhibition was Picasso and Modern British Art at Tate Britain, in which Sutherland also has works exhibited.
The landscapes being shown in Oxford are dramatic drawings which for me capture that edginess in nature which accommodates both wild geology and agriculture's attempted taming hand. I first encountered Sutherland's paintings of the Pembroke landscape in Picton Castle, Pembrokeshire in the mid 70s. They made a great impression on me, especially those which described a distant view along with close-ups of plants, thorns, or twisted trees.
I have hardly come across any Graham Sutherland work since then, and so I was delighted to have the prospect of so many of his landscapes together in one exhibition, and some more of his work in another, both at once.
The Tate exhibition brings together one of the most influential painters in the world in the 20th Century, and seven British artists who were in different ways influenced - either by Picasso, his work, or the Zeitgeist in which he worked. The Nicholson at the top of this post is in the Tate exhibition, and for further illustrations and description this blog is great.
I found the Tate exhibition most interesting because of the thinking it spurred: how much of what Picasso was doing was generated because of the changing world he was in? He was such an energetic, enthusiast: a creator with an insatiable curiosity for seeing and trying and working and working and working, .... How much of this work directly influenced others around him, and how much was done in parallel? It does not really matter, but it is fascinating to speculate on and to observe the disparate work of one alongside several.
The exhibition takes the British artists Duncan Grant and Wyndham Lewis, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Graham Sutherland, Francis Bacon, and David Hockney, and shows examples of how they were or might have been influenced. I came away agog once again at how exciting it must have been to be an artist in the early to mid 20th Century, and how interesting this opportunity is to re-examine these British artists of that period together - with the bonus of Picasso on the side.