School of London


School of London
   Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, R.B.Kitaj and Leon Kossoff constitute the core of artists that were dubbed a ‘School of London’. The idea of the emergence of a School is firmly down to the American-born artist R.B.Kitaj, although the term has been adopted by various critics and artists since the term was first used. It was Kitaj, as early as 1976, in the catalogue preface to a group exhibition of figurative works The Human Clay, who ruminated over the possibilities of an emergent group. After a discussion with the Paris-based critic Michael Peppiatt a decade later, it was Kitaj again who instigated a touring exhibition under the banner of A School of London: Six Figurative Painters. The exhibition toured Europe in 1987–8.
   At first, the idea of a School seems improbable when considering six artists whose work is fiercely protective over notions of individuality and is therefore fundamentally opposed to considering the finer points of artistic fashion. It also seems paradoxical that Kossoff is in fact the only one of the six artists who could be considered a Londoner by birth, though the others have formed an attachment to the city through study or long periods of living and working in the capital. The mood of the disinherited city, however, pervades the work of all six artists. A recurring sense of guilt and human vulnerability recalls the atmosphere of such existentialist mentors as Sartre and the works of Giacometti, who was of particular significance to the artistic development of Andrews and Bacon.
   The most deeply-rooted connection between the six artists, however, centres on an obsessive fascination with the figure, notably throughout the heyday of abstraction. A comprehensive disdain for artistic vogues may also have gone towards drawing the private, even at times reclusive, group more tightly together socially. Akin to the Impressionists, their lives and work have been closely interrelated since early in their painting careers. In-depth discussions and arguments have inevitably added to the way each individual has shaped his work. Although the artists have shared galleries and have appeared in many group shows together, it was not until 1995 that the six artists were shown together in Britain for the first time.
   See also: painting
   Further reading
    The British Council, in association with the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (1995–6) From London, London: The British Council (a catalogue containing informative essays).
   NICKY COUTTS

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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