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Patrick Caulfield: Between the Lines

[ Exhibition )

A still life arrangement of a red jug surrounded by a red, grey and yellow goblet and teal coloured bowl against a blue background.

One of the first exhibitions to reveal the ideas and techniques behind Patrick Caulfield's distinctive work.

An important survey of work by Patrick Caulfield (1936–2005) focussing on his distinctive working methods and techniques, and featuring rarely-seen working drawings alongside the iconic and witty paintings of interiors and still life subjects.

Together with his bold screenprints and studies for murals, tapestries and other projects, this exhibition presented a new view of Caulfield’s artistic creativity.

Patrick Caulfield first came to prominence in 1964 when he was included in ‘New Generation’ at London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery. This exhibition heralded the birth of British Pop Art, yet Caulfield distanced himself from the movement. He was outspoken in his insistence that the label was not appropriate for his work.

Caulfield entered four pictures in the show including Portrait of Juan Gris. The 30 original sketches (included in the exhibition) suggest that he had originally been working on a portrait of Paul Cezanne. It was probably meant as an ironical comment on the art school cliché of the artist as the father of modernism. However, the final piece paid homage to the Spanish Cubist whom he admired for the architectural and decorative qualities of his work.

Despite Caulfield’s rejection of the Pop Art label his working methods had some similarities with the movement. In particular, his use of non-traditional materials and techniques. He was one of the first artists to work with household paint. It was a medium he enjoyed, not only because of its relative cheapness but because of its lack of pretension. He believed it had the potential to negate the ‘artiness’ of their art.

I liked the impersonal surface [house-paint] produced. I didn’t like misty brushstrokes and atmospheric painting – this was my reaction against the Englishness of English painting.

Patrick Caulfield

Printmaking was equally important to Caulfield. Like the house-paint he had used for his early paintings, printmaking had its roots in commercial processes. It also enabled great precision which suited his simplified compositions with their clean lines and areas of pure colours.

Caulfield created Ruins in 1964, the first of his many screenprints at the Kelpra Studio in London. For this work, Caulfield worked closely with the printer Chris Prater. Caulfield produced a full-colour study on board from which Prater cut stencils for the screens. The exhibition included some of these studies, including Coloured Still Life (1967), Lamp and Pines (1975) and Terracotta Vase (1975).

Caulfield’s also worked on a range of multimedia projects such as mosaics, murals, stained glass windows and tapestries. Included in the exhibition were his studies for the Wellcome Institute Mural (1991), the British Library Tapestry (1993) and his maquette for the doors of the Great West Organ in Portsmouth Cathedral (2001). Seen together these present a new view of Caulfield’s creativity, beyond the paintings and prints for which he is so celebrated.

Want to know more?

If you’re conducting research into this artist or another aspect of Modern British art and would like to use our library and archive, please contact Sarah Norris, Collections Manager on

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