Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789-2013
8 November 2013 – 2 February 2014
From the Communist sympathising Picasso to the radical Atelier Populaire, the tradition for artists to be politically left wing is explored in this exhibition of art made over the past 200 years.
According to this exhibition, it all began with the French Revolution when painters like Jacques-Louis David gave permission for their paintings to be reproduced in support of the Republican cause. Those pictures went on to become some of the most defining images of the era and continue to linger in the collective consciousness today.
This exhibition examines why artists tend to be left wing, their political motivations and how art can engineer social change and deliver political messages. Not surprisingly it features the work of Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller, whose critically acclaimed exhibition at the Venice Biennale took a lacerating claw to tax evaders.
From the cottage industry collectives of eighteenth-century pioneer William Morris to the radical posters of the Paris underground movement Atelier Populaire, this is an exhibition that delivers a powerful left hook.
Jacques-Louis David’s painting ‘The Death of Marat’ ,1793-4, depicting the revolutionary journalist dead in his bath, remains one of the most powerful images of the French Revolution, transforming the diseased agitator into a romantic Christ-like martyr.
The art historian TJ Clark has described it as the first modernist painting for the way “it took the stuff of politics as its material, and did not transmute it.”