press release

Bare Life Bacon, Freud, Hockney and others. London artists working from life 1950–80 **

LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur opens with an international group show.

The Museum’s first major exhibition following the unveiling of the new museum building is devoted to figurative painting in London from the 1950s to the late 1970s, including works by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, David Hockney and Richard Hamilton. Around 100 works by fifteen artists will be displayed to highlight the artistic dialogue which took place in London over three decades beginning in the 1950s. Although this group of artists is of international stature, many names will be unfamiliar to a German audience, as will their determination to capture the life around them which seemed, in the aftermath of the war, both precarious and thrilling.

Displayed in the museum’s new suite of grand exhibition galleries, the exhibition will draw on work from these artists’ earliest years in London’s art schools to mature works which continue to influence the artists of today. Portraits, nudes, interiors and cityscapes will be exhibited chronologically, beginning with a section ‘setting the scene’, the groupings made to reveal the extraordinary re-invention of figurative art which took place in London during this period.

The daring and powerful approaches to painting employed by these British artists, unmatched in any other country, were grounded in a commitment to the medium and to the challenge of painting appearances and to focusing on subject matter closely connected to their obsessive interests. Their procedures ranged from the methodical analysis of observed reality to a very inventive engagement with photography and the cinematic image. A few artists, such as Richard Hamilton and Euan Uglow, applied the paint sparingly and with precision, others, such as Francis Bacon and Leon Kossoff, engaged in almost convulsive, expressive gestures as they sought to convey a tangible experience on a flat surface. Despite their various techniques and subject matter, all were dedicated to making a fresh contribution to the tradition of figurative art and used as references paintings hanging in the National Gallery, London.

The exhibition will challenge the accepted view that American Abstract Expressionism was the principal vanguard movement in painting and will present works that are very much of their time, alive to the attractions of mass culture and the changes in social behaviour in the 60s, yet, made with such authority and nerve that they seem surprisingly relevant today.

Curators: Catherine Lampert (London), Tanja Pirsig-Marshall (Münster)