Friday, 16 January 2015

In the Shadow of War, at the Djanogly Art Gallery


In the Shadow of War, at the Djanogly Art Gallery,

Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham.

Anticipating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the exhibition features the work of a generation of artists who rose to prominence in post-war Britain. The exhibition includes work of figurative artists who made allusions to the trauma of conflict be it Nazi imagery or the Holocaust. It also includes work of British sculptors that was dubbed 'the geometry of fear' referring to its iconography of despair or defiance.

Head of a Woman, 1950  (image taken from here )

Francis Bacon, Figure in a Landscape, 1945  (image taken from here)
This painting was exhibited for the first time in April 1945, just as the war in Europe was drawing to a close. The painting is mysterious and deliberately ambiguous. It features a headless suited figure sitting astride a garden chair in an attitude that might in another context suggest leisured informality. To the right, what at first sight looks like a machine gun reveals itself to be a dismembered mouth apparently shouting into a pair of microphones. The image of a shouting or screaming mouth recurs frequently in Bacon's work of the late 40s and 50s.

Keith Vaughan, Assembly of Figures, 1952  (image taken from here )
During the war Vaughan was a conscientious objector. His time as a non-combatant in the Pioneer Corps, and later in a POW camp, gave him ample opportunity to study and draw the male figure, a subject that was to preoccupy him for the rest of his working life.
This painting is the first of a series of large-scale oils comprising groups of male nudes. In these compositions which lack any explicit narrative or meaning, he attempted to achieve a sense of pictorial order and harmony. Elsewhere in his writings he hints that the conscious search for such stability in art was made more urgent as the real world became increasingly chaotic and insecure.


Henry Moore, Falling Warrior, 1956-57 (image taken from here )

In the 1950s Moore produced a small body of works related to the theme of warfare which include a series of helmet heads and two warriors. Warrior and Shield depicts an apparently mutilated figure holding its shield as if to deflect a blow from above. He said that he wishes to depict 'a figure in the act of falling... emphasising the dramatic moment that precedes death'.

Ceri Richards, Return of the Patient, 1953 (image taken from here )

L.S. Lowry, The Funeral Party, 1953  (image taken from here )

Eduardo Paolozzi, Shattered Head, 1956  (image taken from here )

Photography was not allowed in the exhibition so I've had to download the images. I could not find satisfactory images for some of the works that I really liked which included: Marilyn Evans' The Execution; Elisabeth Frink's Bird; or Lynn Chadwick's The Seasons.


  1. Looks like an interesting exhibition of artists I much admire. The Nottingham gallery is a space I like, although I have not been there for several years now.

    1. It was a very nice surprise, Olga. We went to see the Lee Miller photographs so this was a bonus.