Specialist Alice Murray introduces seven great British artists of the 20th century whose pioneering works are not only held by the Tate, but are also offered in our Modern/British Art Online sale from 2-13 December
David Partridge’s first nail sculptures — or ‘nailies’, as he nicknamed them — were inspired by the irregular surfaces of the etched metal plates he used at Paris’s Atelier 17, where he studied printmaking under the artist William Hayter. By the mid 1960s, the compositions had gained a following, and were the subject of a number of solo exhibitions across London.
June #5 was made at the height of this period, in 1965, two years after Partridge’s Vertebrate Configuration, which is held in the Tate’s permanent collection. The work illustrates Partridge’s interest in texture and relief, its undulating rows of nails and sheet metal alluding to a fascination with topography linked to the artist’s earlier career as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
John Hoskin left school at 14, working in an architect’s drawing office before serving in the Second World War. At the close of the war he briefly returned to architecture, but also began to paint. By 1953, encouraged by the artist Terry Frost, he had focused his practice on sculpture, becoming associated with prominent sculptors including Lynn Chadwick and Bernard Meadows.
Hoskin began to experiment with metal, producing spindly creatures, often made in textured mild steel. The material was one that he would return to throughout his career, with later sculptures such as Hammer Head, above, featuring smooth steel held together by rods. In 1975 Hoskin was the subject of a retrospective at London’s Serpentine Gallery. Three of his works feature in Tate’s collection, including the 1957 work Black Beetle.
Magda Cordell was a founding member of the radical Independent Group — a group of artists, architects, designers, musicians and critics who met at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts from 1952 to 1955. Other founding members included her first husband, the British musician and composer Frank Cordell, and the artist John McHale, who would become her second husband. The group, which also included artists Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton, aimed to introduce mass culture to galleries, which they viewed as frustratingly conservative.
Cordell participated in the group’s seminal 1956 exhibition This Is Tomorrow at London’s Whitechapel Gallery, during which time the artist embarked upon a series of studies of the female body, built from translucent layers of pigment mixed with polymer resin. Cordell’s paintings, along with her sculptures, prompted critic Reyner Banham to discuss her practice alongside that of artists Alberto Burri and Jackson Pollock.
Tate holds two works by the artist in its collection, including the 1960 painting No.12, similar to the above, purchased from Christie’s in 2012.
Arguably the greatest war artist to have come out of Britain, Paul Nash’s influence on 20th-century art cannot be overlooked. The artist founded the Unit One group, which brought together British Abstract and Surrealist artists in the 1930s, and took part in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London, at which Salvador Dalí famously delivered a lecture whilst wearing a deep-sea diving suit.
Nash was an Official War Artist during both world wars. Assigned to the Air Ministry during the World War II, he discovered an aircraft dump near Oxford which inspired a dramatic series of watercolours depicting fighter planes, such as the picture above. The work is comparable to several featured in Tate’s current retrospective of Nash’s work, which continues until March 2017. More than 100 of his works feature in Tate’s permanent collection.
A sculptor, environmentalist and photographer, Andy Goldsworthy has become renowned for creating site-specific sculptures that use natural and found materials. Often ephemeral, many of these works are documented through photographs — five of which feature in the Tate’s permanent collection.
Leaf Work, above, is the result of several one-week stays on a beach in Michigan, and in a wooded area in Illinois. The wreath of Red Oak leaves, held together by an intricate web of twigs and stems, was one of 39 works to be exhibited in Goldsworthy’s first United States solo exhibition Sand / Leaves: Michigan Dunes, August 1991. Illinois Woods, September 1991.
Henry Moore’s international status as an artist was secured in 1948, when he was awarded the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale. Since then Moore has been the subject of numerous exhibitions worldwide. Today his work can be found in many public collections, including Tate’s own, which holds more than 600 of his works, with two rooms at Tate Britain dedicated to him.
Moore was inspired by landscape and nature, and his sculptures often stem from organic forms. Upright Motive B, conceived in 1968, is one of several upright structures developed from a series of standing figures that Moore developed in the 1950s. His initial inspiration was the soaring height of a poplar tree, juxtaposed with a neighbouring horizontal building. The resulting abstract form also references ancient relics.
A pioneer of British abstract art, Jeremy Moon was part of a new generation of avant-garde artists to emerge in London during the 1960s. Moon's work is characterised by bold, geometric compositions in bright colours.
Moon’s life was tragically cut short by a motorcycle accident in 1973, but during his brief career he exhibited extensively, both in solo exhibitions, and in seminal group shows including Young Contemporaries at the RBA Galleries in 1962 and Recent British Painting — Peter Stuyvesant Foundation Collection at Tate in 1967. The Tate went on to acquire 27 of Moon’s works for its collection.