ELEVEN BRITISH ARTISTS
An exhibition of 40 paintings and drawings drawn from various private and public collections, including the British Council Collection. A catalogue, with an introduction by A J L McDonnell, was published to accompany the show. No ISBN number.
After closing in Melbourne, the paintings were shown in four main provincial towns in Victoria: Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine and Geelong. In order to show the paintings in all four towns in a short time, the collection was divided into two parts. In minutes of the Fine Art Advisory Committee report that ‘The Representative in Australia has been asked to prevent any such step being taken in the future without consulting the Committee, since the collection was devised as a whole and does not lend itself to division.’
The exhibition was also shown in the art galleries of Castlemaine, Bendifo, Ballarat and Geelong.
A press notice in the Western Australian comments
Whatever one thinks or feels about modern trends in the arts, it must be admitted that they possess vitality, encourage experiment and arouse much comment.
And ends with the pious hope
That artists will study rather than imitate what lies before them in this very important collection and will compare these pictures with those they saw in the Wakefield Collection.
Articles and letters in the Australian press reflect the interest, controversy, appreciation and indignation aroused in the minds of the Australian public. A report in the Adelaiade Mail> states
The National Gallery staff is having a lively time dealing with questions from critics – competent and otherwise – of its controversial exhibition of paintings by British artists. The paintings caused so much interest that people who have never been to an exhibition before have rung to ask what time lectures take place and where the Gallery is.
An indignant correspondent writes to the Adelaide Advertiser
To send such incongruities 12,000 miles to be shown in Australia must either be an ill-conceived joke or a studied affront to the intelligence of the Australian public.
This is countered by a reproving letter
If we, the inhabitants of a small city cherish too far our provincial outlook we shall one day awaken to find ourselves being by-passed by every progressive movement in the artist and be left to the mercy of Ruskin. Let us use our heads, or if that be impossible, at least be tolerant of any effort to emancipate us by the British Council or similar valuable organisation.
The exhibition continued to be the subject of attack and counter-attack in numerous articles in the press. Paul Haefliger wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald
Considering only the best contemporary standards, it does not belittle the 11 British artists exhibition at the National Gallery to regard them as gifted amateurs.
The lyric spirit, lightly touched upon by Victor Pasmore, Frances Hodgkins, Lawrence Gowing, and John Piper, is one of the supreme benefits bestowed upon the British Isles – hence a poetry unique in the world. But a plastic awareness is not part of those rain swept regions, nor are the lyric illusions here of sufficient grandeur to overcome so great a handicap.
There is an air of gentle loveliness in Pasmore’s Carnations which casts its spell merely to lose itself in nebula. The experience was touching but all too brief. His Nude> rising from the mist in an attempt to assume the shape of characterisation is too conventional. This is not reticence but the modesty of the mediocre.
Indeed in the whole exhibition, the conventional development stifles all originality, In Gowing’s Judithspace is asked to exercise a psychological influence upon the subject but results only in poor composition.
The curly lines and pastel shades of Frances Hodgkins’ work are so ‘poetised’ and perfumed that a little spiritual lethargy overtakes the physical activity. The little surprise has vanished before it had time to assert itself.
Slightly more virile and extremely adroit, Ivon Hitchens’ Larchwood is but a male counterpart to Miss Hodgkins’ Houses, while Rycote Chapelby Piper appears stagey and of uncertain taste.
In their various ways, the paintings of John Tunnard, Ben Nicholson, and Tristram Hillier present the other self-conscious extreme – they are as hard as nails and emotionally as extinct as the Dodo.
Finally the work of L S Lowry achieves the almost impossible. It is at once primitive and without vestige of charm. If this end seems somewhat abrupt, it is born of a deep disappointment.
The National Gallery acquired The Fish Market, Dieppe by Edward le Bas and Still Life 1946 by Ben Nicholson for their collection; Conversation after breakfastby Edward le Bas was acquired by the Tasmanian Museum, Hobart.
Australia, Art Gallery Of New South Wales
- 23 July 1949 − 21 August 1949
Australia, Launceston, Queen Victoria Art Gallery
- 20 June 1949 − 29 June 1949
Australia, Hobart, Tasmanian Museum And Art Gallery
- 02 June 1949 − 10 June 1949
Australia, Melbourne, Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building
- 24 March 1949 − 29 April 1949
Australia, Broken Hill, Broken Hill Art Gallery
- 01 March 1949 − 01 April 1949
Australia, Adelaide, Art Gallery Of South Australia
- 08 February 1949 − 27 February 1949
Australia, Perth, Art Gallery Of Western Australia
- 11 January 1949 − 11 February 1949
Australia, Brisbane, Queensland Art Gallery
- 01 January 1949 − 30 September 1949