Patrick Heron (1920-1999)
Patrick Heron was a British artist and critic born in Leeds in 1920. He studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, between 1937 and 1939 and worked as an assistant to Bernard Leach in St Ives, 1944-45. During the 1930s and 40s he also had some success designing textiles for Cresta Silks, a company owned by his father. Heron's first solo exhibitions were held at the Redfern Gallery, London, in 1947 and at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York, in 1960. In 1956, Heron moved to Zennor in Cornwall where he lived until his death, and it was here that he first began making abstract work inspired by Tachisme and Abstract Expressionism. In his famous lecture ‘The Shape of Colour’ delivered in 1973, Heron argued that colour and shape were inseparable from one another, a belief that would come to define much of his subsequent work.
Formerly the art critic for The New Statesman between 1947 and 1950, Heron also acted as the London correspondent for Arts based in New York during the late 1950s. Throughout his career he published important scholarship on artists that he admired, notably Ivon Hitchens (1955) and Braque (1956), as well as producing research and theory which underpinned some of his own practice, as seen in The Changing Forms of Art (1955) and The Shape of Colour (1973).
For his painting Heron won the Grand Prize at the John Moores Prize Exhibition in Liverpool in 1959 and the silver medal at the São Paulo Art Biennial in 1965. From 1980 to 1987, he was a Trustee of the Tate Gallery, London. He was awarded a C.B.E. in 1977 and received Honorary Doctorates from Exeter and Kent Universities, the Royal College of Art, London and Winchester School of Art, amongst others. He had retrospective exhibitions at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (1972) and the Barbican Art Gallery (1985). In 1998, the Tate Gallery hosted a major retrospective in 1998 and a subsequent one in 2018 at Tate St Ives which travelled to Turner Contemporary in 2019.
Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005)
The Scottish-born son of Italian parents, Eduardo Paolozzi grew up in Leith in Edinburgh and began his artistic training at Edinburgh College of Art (1942-43), and later the Slade School of Art (1944-47). His first one-man show was held at the Mayor Gallery in London while he was still a student and the proceeds enabled him to move to Paris where he not only met the likes of Giacometti, Arp, Léger, Brancusi, Dubuffet and Braque, but was inspired by the work of the Dadaists and Surrealists.
After moving back to London in 1949 the critic David Sylvester hailed Paolozzi as ‘the most positive and original’ sculptor working in Britain. The artist went on to teach sculpture and ceramics at the Central School of Art (1949-55), St Martin’s School of Art (1955-58), and then the Royal College of Art, London (1968-2000). He worked professor at the Fachhochschule in Cologne between 1977 and 1981 and taught at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich.
Paolozzi’s work was included in the 1952 Venice Biennale, and again in the 1960 Biennale, when he won the David E Bright Foundation award for the best sculptor under the age of 45. He had a retrospective exhibition at the Tate Gallery in 1971, and an Arts Council exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in 1987. In 1994 Paolozzi gave a large body of his work to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which has been displayed in the Dean Gallery since 1999. His public commissions include the ceramic wall murals for Tottenham Road tube station, and the bronze sculpture of Newton after Blake outside the British Library at King’s Cross. Paolozzi became a Royal Academician in 1979, was appointed Her Majesty’s Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland in 1986 and was knighted in 1989.
Richard Smith 1931 - 2016
Born in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, on 27 October 1931, Richard Smith began his studies at Luton School of Art (1948-50) before serving for two years in the Royal Air Force in Hong Kong. On completing his National Service, he went on to study at St Albans School of Art (1952-54) and then continued as a postgraduate in the painting school at the Royal College of Art, London (1954-57), where he befriended fellow painters Peter Blake, Joe Tilson and Robyn Denny.
Following his move to New York on the Harkness Fellowship in 1959, Smith’s interest in advertising and popular culture grew and he began to lift his subject matter from the mass media, magazines and billboard adverts. His paintings from this period fuse pop imagery with gestural brushwork and saturated fields of colour inspired by the Abstract Expressionist painters that he first saw in the major survey exhibition ‘The New American Painting’ at Tate Gallery in 1959. In 1961 Smith had his first solo exhibition at the Green Gallery, already noted for showing cutting-edge American Pop artists such as Tom Wesselmann and Claes Oldenburg. In 1963, a solo show at the newly opened Kasmin Gallery in London consolidated Smith’s reputation as one of the most ambitious painters of his generation and his work inspired a younger group of artists who would become synonymous with Pop Art in Britain; Dereck Boshier, Allen Jones, Pauline Boty and David Hockney. In the mid-1960s Smith experimented with shaped canvases and constructions and as the decade continued his work became more minimal while retaining subjects based in the imagery of everyday life. Having returned to New York by early 1964 for a second two-year spell, followed by a period East Tytherton, Wiltshire, in 1978 Smith settled in the USA, for many years dividing his time between New York and Colorado. His inventions of the mid-1970s, paintings on unstretched canvases suspended on aluminum bars known as ‘kites’, brought him major commissions for corporate clients and for restaurants run by Mr Chow, Terence Conran and others.
The international art world was quick to recognise Smith’s achievements. A survey of his paintings from 1958 to 1966, curated by Bryan Robertson, was shown at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in May 1966, and in 1970 he was the first artist to be given a solo show at the British Pavilion of the Venice Biennale. In 1975 the Tate Gallery presented a retrospective of Smith’s paintings in an informative format, recreating seven of his key solo shows dating back to the Green Gallery exhibition of 1961.