Focusing on the artist's revolutionary transition from figurative to abstract art.

When Victor Pasmore finished Harrow School he hoped to continue his studies at Oxford and the Slade School of Art in London, but the sudden death of his father in 1927 instead saw him become a clerk for the London County Council while taking art evening classes and painting in his spare time.

A decade later, after brief experiments with abstract art, he had established himself as a painter of landscapes, figures and still-lives influenced by post-Impressionists such as Pierre Bonnard. The patronage of art historian Sir Kenneth Clark, then director of the National Gallery, enabled him to give up his council job in 1938 and completely devote himself to painting as well as teaching at the Euston Road School he had founded with fellow artists Graham Bell, William Coldstream and Claude Rogers.

The School emphasised working directly from nature; its prospectus stated that: 'particular emphasis will be laid on training the observation. No attempt, however, will be made to improvise a style'. So Pasmore’s sudden conversion to abstract art in 1948 was seen as one of the most dramatic events in post-war British art.

It seems that the Second World War changed him, including his art. After serving in the army from 1941-42, he deserted and was put in prison, only being released following the intervention of Clark and Coldstream. Out of prison and living by the Thames near Chiswick, he started painting views of the river, like Turner and Whistler before him, but started incorporating increasingly suggestive formal structures which led to his first fully abstract paintings and collages.

Perhaps also spurred on by visiting the controversial exhibition of Picasso’s paintings at the V&A and reading Kandinsky, Mondrian, Arp and the other pioneers of abstract art, these were quickly followed by several paintings featuring spiral patterns, such as The Snowstorm commissioned by the Arts Council for the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Pasmore went on to collaborate with Ernö Goldfinger and Helen Phillips on an exhibit for the iconic This is Tomorrow at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1956, as well as working as an architectural designer for the new town of Peterlee, County Durham.

The Djanogly Gallery’s exhibition of Victor Pasmore’s work between 1930 and 1969 follows the artist’s revolutionary transition from one of this country’s leading figurative painters to one of its foremost abstract artists.

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