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Beaux Arts London: ‘Four Giants of British Modernism’
Categories: Art Exhibitions
Patrick Heron - Big Violet with Red and Blue

Four Giants of British Modernism: 

Terry Frost, William Scott, Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron

Beaux Arts London announce Four Giants of British Modernism, an exhibition of celebrated British modern artists: Terry Frost, William Scott, Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron.

The exhibition will feature 5-6 works from each of the Post Second World War modernists, sourced from private collections.

Beaux Arts Gallery worked with the late artists Frost, Scott, Lanyon and Heron during their careers and this exhibition offers a retrospective of some of their greatest works created as they revolutionised British Art.

The four artists lived and worked through the harsh time of post war Britain, and through their art were seeking to convey a new world of hope. They were pioneers of British Abstract Art and were associated with the celebrated St. Ives School along with Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Roger Hilton, Bernard Leach and many others. In the wake of the war, St. Ives, a fishing village in West Cornwall began to attract a wide range of young emerging artists due to its breath-taking scenery and clarity of light, owing to its peninsula positioning. Beaux Arts’ first gallery, Will’s Lane Gallery, was located there and thus became a central platform for exhibiting the work of artists of the St. Ives school from the early 70s.

While the artists had varied upbringings, all of them had profound connections with Cornwall. Terry Frost was brought up by his grandparents in a working-class family in Leamington Spa. At the age of 18 he joined the army and had his first artistic experience when painting rounders in red, white and blue on the wings of fighter planes and bombers. In 1942 he was captured by Nazis and held as prisoner of war for four years. After his release in1946 he moved to St. Ives and lived in a one room cottage with his six children. Frost would take early morning walks by the sea and this is when he started to notice the reflections of boats and sails in the water, which became a source of inspiration for his geometric abstractions. Frost became a Royal Academician in 1992 and in 1998 was knighted.

Peter Lanyon was born in St. Ives to a Cornish family. In 1939 he began studying under Ben Nicholson before serving with the Royal Air Force in 1940-45. Lanyon used paint, collage, construction and pottery to create works that drew on elements of Constructivism through Abstract Expressionism and in some cases Pop Art. Visiting Mexico had a huge influence on Lanyon’s work in this show, as did his hobby of gliding, which eventually caused his early death at the age of 46.

Patrick Heron was born in Leeds and studied at the Slade School of Art in London, permanently moving to Cornwall after the war. In Heron’s work the fields, rocks and trees of the St. Ives’ coast are visible. He also made great use of the light quality of the area which helped him develop his distinctive colour palette. Heron’s modernist ideas manifested through his work and its accompanying critical writings.

William Scott was born in Scotland and joined the army in 1942. In the Royal Engineers he learnt lithography through map making, which later influenced his work. He visited the USA in1953 and there met Rothko, De Kooning, Klein and Pollock. In 1984 he was elected a Royal Academician. Scott’s work often blurs the boundaries between still life and abstract. Scott said of his work: “I am an abstract artist in the sense that I abstract. I cannot be called non-figurative while I am still interested in the modern magic of space, primitive sex forms, the sensual and the erotic, disconcerting contours, the things of life.”

The abstract works on show in Four Giants of British Modernismare all based on figurative ideas yet seek to highlight the expressive potential of the paint itself, drawing attention to the mark making while retaining the subject matter and imagery. The four artists went on to influence an entire generation of others. Frost, Lanyon and Scott all lectured at The Bath Academy of Art at Corsham, a leading institution amongst young artists of the time, offering a unique opportunity for students to work with professional working artists. The artist’s influence on one another is also evident in the exhibition with some of the works being shown side by side for the very first time.

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