The first ever major US exhibition of the commonly-named School of London artists opened at The Getty earlier this week (July 26th).
Works from Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, R.B. Kitaj and Leon Kossoff are on display at the Los Angeles-based centre until November 13th. A collaboration with the Tate in London, the London Calling exhibition features 80 paintings, drawings, and prints.
The School of London came to prominence between the 1940s and 1980s with a number of artists based in the British capital developing new styles and approaches to depicting the human figure and the landscape. Their works focused on displaying contemporary life in an innovative and figurative manner, as opposed to the abstraction, minimalism, and conceptualism that dominated contemporary art at the time.
Julian Brooks, curator of drawings at the Getty Museum, said the School of London artists pursued painting as a sensory experience, which allowed them to reinvent the way their surrounds could be interpreted. He added that while this approach was considered "outmoded" by many contemporaries, the passing of time has allowed the school to be reassessed and an appreciation of their works to develop.
The majority of the works of art on display at London Calling are from the Tate, with a number also provided by other museums and private collectors. Among the works on display are:
Francis Bacon's depiction of the suicide of his longtime lover, George Dyer, in 1971, is one of the highlights of London Calling. Part of a series of so-called Black Triptychs, the painting features representations of both Dyer and Bacon himself.
Painted by Lucian Freud, grandson of the renowned Sigmund, this psychologically-charged work features the former's wife Kathleen (Kitty) Garman holding a kitten by the neck, making exquisite use of fine sable brushes on finely woven canvas.
Michael Andrews' painting depicts the Soho clubs and bars he frequently visited. Several famous figures from history can be seen, including Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, and the poet Rimbaud. The work was inspired by Norman Mailer's 1955 novel of the same title, while the background draws inspiration from Diego Velasquez’s 17th century painting 'Philip IV Hunting Wild Boar'.
Discussing London Calling, Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum and one of the exhibition curators, commented: "The majority of paintings and drawings in the Getty Museum’s collection are fundamentally concerned with the rendition of the human figure and landscape up to 1900.
"This significant exhibition shows an important part of ‘what happened next,’ highlighting an innovative group of figurative artists at a time when abstraction dominated avant-garde discourse in the US and much of Europe. Working with our partners at Tate in London, we have brought together a fabulous group of pictures that exemplify the radical approaches to figure and landscape pioneered by this influential coterie of artists, illuminating their crucial place in modern art history."