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Post-War Abstraction

For many British artists in the years following the Second World War, abstraction was seen as an international language that transcended the specifics of place and subject. In 1956 the Tate Gallery held an exhibition entitled 'Modern Art in the United States', which included the first significant showing of the work of Abstract Expressionist artists in the UK, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, and Barnett Newman. The size and vitality of the works made a great impression on British artists and Patrick Heron wrote of how he was, 'instantly elated by the size, energy, originality, economy, and inventive daring of many of the paintings.' He and other artists, including William Scott and Alan Davie, also met these artists in New York during the 1950s.

Like the Abstract Expressionists, the European 'Art Informel' and 'Tachist' artists (from the French 'tache', a stain) such as Jean-Paul Riopelle, Sam Francis and Denis Bowen believed that the individual psyche harbours deep feelings that can be brought to the picture surface only by means of extremely free techniques.

In contrast, the abstract constructions of artists such as Victor Pasmore and Anthony Hill and of the 1960s 'New Generation' sculptors such as Anthony Caro and William Tucker were characterised by complete abstraction, modern materials and a new relationship with the spectator.

Key works include: 'Single Form (Nocturne)’, (1968) by Barbara Hepworth and 'Black and White: April' (1956) by Patrick Heron.