15 January – 13 March 2011
Pallant House Gallery is widely hailed for its important collection of Modern British art, but it is also home to one of the leading regional collections of European Modern art. A new exhibition pays homage to this continental legacy with a display of works by artists including Pablo Picasso, Jean Metzinger, Paul Klee, Marino Marini, Fernand Léger and André Derain.
Several of these continental artworks were bequeathed to Pallant House Gallery by the property developer Charles Kearley (1904-1989). He began collecting modern art when he moved into Kensal House, a Modern Movement building designed by the architect Maxwell Fry in the 1930s. In 1975 Kearley commissioned the architect John Lomax to design a modern house at Hat Hill Copse (now the Cass Sculpture Foundation) expressly to house his important collection of modern art. Significantly it includes works by Cubist artists from Eastern Europe rarely seen in Britain such as Emil Filla's ‘Homme Assis tenant un Journal (Seated Man holding a Newspaper)' (1920) and Henri Hayden's ‘Cubist 1919' - both included in the show.
One of the highlights of the collection is a masterpiece of Italian Futurism: ‘Danseuse No. 5' by Gino Severini (pictured) This vibrant painting depicts Parisian can-candancer in one of the dancehalls of Montmartre, which Severini would frequent with his friends Apollinaire, Modigliani and Picasso and represents a radical attempt to marry Futurism and Cubism. The effect of movement is in part created by the fusion of the figure of the dancer with her surroundings by the penetration of colour and light.
Another key exhibit is Fernand Léger's L'Engrenage Rouge (Nature morte en rouge et bleu) (The Red Gear (Still Life in red and blue) (1939) in which the artist uses the traditional still life format as a vehicle to explore form, colour and shape. His interest in the contrast of constructive forces, between the naturally and mechanically produced, is expressed through the motifs of the red ‘gear', a plant form and blue jug on a table. These appear in a number of other works by Legér from the late 1930s, most notably the mural he executed in Nelson A. Rockefeller's apartment in New York in 1938-39.