In an era characterised by industrialisation, rapid social change, and advances in science, the mid-20th century welcomed a search for new modes of expression in art that better reflected the realities and hopes of modern societies.
Given the recent growth of the Modern British art market, we have selected three highlights from our collection. These works by Mary Fedden, Peter Lanyon and Sandra Blow showcase the variety and breadth of Modern British art and explore why it is so appreciated today.
Climb Out is one of the last ever paintings to be produced by the master of Modern British art, Peter Lanyon, and is a key example from the series of works known as ‘the gliding paintings’, given their long-deserved due at the Courtauld Institute’s critically acclaimed exhibition, Soaring Flight from 2015. Painted from 1959 until the artist’s untimely death in 1964 (following a gliding accident), these works channel Lanyon’s experience of taking to the skies from the tiny Perranporth airstrip, perched on a cliff-top on the exposed northern coast of the Penwith peninsular.
Lanyon was the first artist to have a retrospective in over forty years at the Tate in St Ives in 2010. Being one of the most important figures of Post War British abstract art, his works are incredibly sought after, both at auction and in the academic world. Notably, a painting that has much in common with Climb Out, but painted in 1961 was sold in London in November 2018 for 1.3million pounds.
Two Fish, is a wonderfully playful still life by the much acclaimed Modern British artist, Mary Fedden. Throughout her life Fedden remained adamant that the arrangement of objects in her paintings were not symbolic of anything but rather that they are simply objects that she loves to paint, again and again. For this reason, the humble still life was one of her most favoured subjects.
Known for her naive style, Fedden trained and then taught at the Slade School in London. One of her most renowned pupils was David Hockney.
Her charming, stylised paintings have been performing increasingly well at auction in recent years. Demand for exceptional pieces is greater than ever, and her works have sold in excess of one hundred thousand pounds.
Sandra Blow was a British Pioneer of abstraction whose work has been connected to both the American Abstract Expressionists and the St. Ives School. Collage was central to Blow’s processes and her technique is to some degree sculptural, in that her canvases combine both painted and constructed elements, as you can see in Colour Notes Collage. This pair of collages, was painted only a year before her death and Blow can been seen photographed with the pair in the photo above, in early 2006.
Her work has been exhibited across the globe, and she was selected to represent the United Kingdom at Venice’s Biennale of 1958. Given the increasing global interest in female artists, Blow’s art has been re-examined in recent years. Accordingly, her abstracts continue to gain traction with collectors, with the record price achieved for a Blow at auction being in excess of ninety thousand dollars.