‘The poor man’s picture gallery': an enquiry into artists’ printmaking and print images in the cultural and political context of post-war Britain, 1945-60

Clegg, Michael ORCID: 0000-0002-0867-0944 (2021). ‘The poor man’s picture gallery': an enquiry into artists’ printmaking and print images in the cultural and political context of post-war Britain, 1945-60. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis argues for the value of attending to artists’ printmaking in Britain between 1945 and 1960. It claims that prints provided a particular artistic space in which contemporary experiences and issues in culture and politics were readily explored and, as evidence for this, it offers developed interpretations of print images. In parallel, it proposes that an idea of prints as a way to democratise art ownership marked both printmaking and print images across the period. The first chapter explores the nature and status of post-war printmaking, in particular via the Society of London Painter-Printers exhibition of 1948. It also looks at images from the first series of Lyons Lithographs, from 1947, considering these as responses to wartime atrocity and postwar reconstruction. Artists discussed include Matthew Smith, Eileen Agar, Prunella Clough, Graham Sutherland, Edwin La Dell, Barnett Freedman and Mary Kessell. The following two chapters look at prints published to celebrate the Festival of Britain, in 1951, and the Coronation, in 1953. The Festival of Britain images are discussed as a sympathetic, though complex, visual response to the culture accompanying the development of a welfare state after 1945. The 1953 images are interpreted as revealing tensions that arose for this position when picturing the royal and military spectacle of the Coronation. Artists whose work is discussed include Lynton Lamb, Fred Uhlman, John Minton, Barbara Jones, Stella Marsden, Edward Bawden and Keith Vaughan. The final chapter examines work published by St George’s Gallery Prints in the later 1950s and in particular images by Merlyn Evans, interpreted in relation to the history of modernist primitivism, and Josef Herman and George Chapman, considered in relation to themes of stasis and change in the context of Britain’s evolving industrial landscape. By demonstrating the interpretive possibilities of attending to post-war prints, the thesis argues against tendencies in art history that view much British art and printmaking after 1945 as parochial and timid. At the same time, it argues for a sophisticated approach to periodisation that recognises the specificity of the post-war period but also its links to the 1930s and its continuities with the 1960s.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NE Print media
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/11533


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