Thursday 25 February 2010

The British invasion

A review of the Paul Nash show at Dulwich Picture Gallery caught my eye over the weekend. I first learnt about Nash's work when working on my thesis on Peter Tomory, the director of the Auckland Art Gallery from 1956 to 1965.

It was looking at the collecting practices of New Zealand galleries at this time, and reading Tomory's art historical texts (drawing links between our surrealists/romantics and England's), that brought the large numbers of British modernist works in New Zealand collections to my attention for the first time.

Jonathan Jones this week, reflecting on the Nash exhibition and the Henry Moore show at Tate Britain, wrote that "British art from the years 1900 to 1950 is unlikely to be found in huge quantities in many museums of modern art you visit around the world."

We might not call them 'museums of modern art' here, but we certainly have our fair share of British works. I'm a bit of an Eric Ravilious fan, for example. I don't run my nose up at Te Papa's Nicholson or Ceri Richards, or Auckland Art Gallery's John Tunnard. The Rex Nan Kivell gift of modernist prints distributed British artists' work across Auckland Art Gallery, Christchurch Art Gallery ,Te Papa, and Dunedin Public Art Gallery*. And of course Frances Hodgkins is a British painter in all but place of birth.

*DPAG helpfully confirmed by @ChchArtGallery

Eric Ravilious, The Commander of a submarine looking through a periscope, 1941. Colour lithograph. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, gift of Rex Nan Kivell, 1953. No known copyright restrictions.

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