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About the author

Stephen Bann

Stephen Bann is Emeritus Professor of History of Art, and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bristol. His research ranges broadly over issues relating to the representations of history and the dissemination of print images, with a special emphasis on France in the nineteenth century. His work has been widely influential in both these areas, and he has held visiting fellowships and appointments at prominent Research Institutes in Europe and America. He has also served as a guest curator for exhibitions at the National Gallery, London (2010), the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon (2014) and Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge (2014–2015), where he drew upon his own collection of the work of Ian Hamilton Finlay. In 2017, he was Slade Professor of the History of Art at the University of Cambridge. Having published throughout his career as a critic and historian of modern art, he continues to be active in writing on the work of a number of contemporary artists.

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Date
31 May 2019
Review status
Peer Reviewed (Single Blind)
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Stephen Bann, "1964: A Year of Exhibitions", British Art Studies, Issue 12, https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-12/sbann
Footnotes
In his Introduction to the first volume of the series, Bryson commented: “all art history needs to do is […] take from literary criticism everything of service to itself”, see Norman Bryson, Calligram: Essays in New Art History from France (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988).
See Neil McWilliam (ed.), A Bibliography of Salon Criticism in Paris from the Ancien Régime to the Restoration 1699–1827 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); and Neil McWilliam (ed.), A Bibliography of Salon Criticism in Paris from the July Monarchy to the Second Republic 1831–1851 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
Richard Wrigley, The Origins of French Art Criticism: From the Ancien Régime to the Restoration (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).
Michael Fried, Manet’s Modernism: Or, The Face of Painting in the 1860s (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
PMC NOTES, no. 6 (May 2016), 5.
Francis Haskell, The Ephemeral Museum: Old Master Paintings and the Rise of the Art Exhibition (London: Yale University Press, 2000).
Francis Haskell, “A Century Reassessed”, Times Literary Supplement 3811, 21 March 1975, 297.
See David H. Solkin (ed.), Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House, 1780–1836 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001).
Mark Hallett, Sarah Victoria Turner, and Jessica Feather (eds), The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle 1769–2018 (London: Paul Mellon Centre, 2018), https://chronicle250.com/.
See Stephen Bann, “Reading Back from Experimental Painting”, in Bronac Ferran and Elizabeth Fisher (eds), “The Experimental Generation”, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 42, nos 1–2 (March–June 2017): 54–65.
See Cecilia Hurley Griener and Claire Barbillon (eds), Le Catalogue dans tous ses états (Paris: École du Louvre, 2015).
My source for this material was Marie-Antoinette, Allévy, La mise en scène en France dans la première moitié du dix-neuvième siècle, (Paris: E. Droz, 1938).
This book by the veteran Austrian Marxist Ernst Fischer had first appeared in an English edition in 1963, and attracted some criticism for its insistence on the “magical” antecedents of art. It was republished in a paperback edition in 2010, with an Introduction by John Berger.
Cf. Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1980).
Granta 69, no. 1236, 14 May 1964, 1. Reg Gadney was one of three editors, but was concerned particularly with the coverage of matters relating to the visual arts. It was Gadney who commissioned Anthony Donaldson to design the series of covers which would notionally have added up to a complete nude figure.
Cambridge Opinion 27, a special number titled “Modern Art in Britain”, came out in 1963. It contained contributions from a remarkable range of artists, including the “Situation” group, the school of Bomberg associated with the Beaux Arts Gallery, David Hockney, and Anthony Caro. The critic Lawrence Alloway also provided an essay.
Patrick Reyntiens, Blackfriars Review, July 1964.
Painting & Sculpture of a Decade 1954–64, Tate Gallery, April–June 1964, 46.
I relied for my quotations from Dr Haftmann on an English translation of the Foreword to the catalogue which was provided by the Press Office.
The verdict of the press on the day following this uproarious occasion was “some seats broken, one attendant slightly wounded”.
See Midway (2014) and Stonypath Days (2016).
A proof of this edition was accepted as a gift to the national collection at the Tate in 2018. It joined a selection of my other ‘poem-prints’, produced with the aid of different collaborators, which date from the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
This company, based in Winchester, did however advertise a connection to Taylor & Francis of London, which has over time become a printer and publisher of major international importance.
See the advertisement on the back cover of The London Magazine 4, no. 7, October 1964. This magazine was also printed by Shenval.
Typografica 8 (1963): 47–62.
Bibliography

Allévy, Marie-Antoinette (1938) La mise en scène en France La mise en scène en France dans la première moitié du dix-neuvième siècle. Paris: E. Droz.

Bann, Stephen (1964) Review of Nikolaus Pevsner, The Englishness of English Art (1964 [1955]). Granta, 14 May.

Bann, Stephen (1964) “Note from Paris”. Granta, 28 November.

Bann, Stephen (1970) Experimental Painting: Construction, Abstraction, Destruction, Reduction. New York: Universe Books.

Bann, Stephen (2017) “Reading Back from Experimental Painting”. In Bronac Ferran and Elizabeth Fisher (eds), “The Experimental Generation”. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 42, nos 1–2 (March–June): 54–65.

Berlin, Isaiah (1953) The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy’s View of History. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Bryson, Norman (1988) Calligram: Essays in New Art History from France. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Documenta and Museum Fridericianum gGmbH (1964) documenta III. Kassel, Germany, 27 June–5 October. https://www.documenta.de/en/retrospective/documenta_iii.

Ehrenzweig, Anton (1967) The Hidden Order of Art: A Study in the Psychology of Artistic Imagination. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Fried, Michael (1980) Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Fried, Michael (1996) Manet’s Modernism: Or, The Face of Painting in the 1860s. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Gombrich, Ernst H. (1960) Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art.

Hallett, Mark, Turner, Sarah Victoria, and Feather, Jessica (eds) (2018) The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle 1769–2018. London: Paul Mellon Centre, https://chronicle250.com/.

Haskell, Francis (1975) “A Century Reassessed”. Times Literary Supplement 3811, 21 March.

Haskell, Francis (2000) The Ephemeral Museum: Old Master Paintings and the Rise of the Art Exhibition. London: Yale University Press.

Houédard, Dom Sylvester (1963) “Concrete Poetry and Ian Hamilton Finlay”. Typografica 8: 47–62.

Hurley Griener, Cecilia and Barbillon, Claire (eds) (2015) Le Catalogue dans tous ses états. Paris: École du Louvre.

Kitaj, R.B. (1963) Pictures with Commentary, one-man exhibition. Marlborough Fine Art, February.

The London Magazine 4, no. 7, October 1964.

McWilliam, Neil (ed.) (1991) A Bibliography of Salon Criticism in Paris from the Ancien Régime to the Restoration 1699–1827. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McWilliam, Neil (ed.) (1991) A Bibliography of Salon Criticism in Paris from the July Monarchy to the Second Republic 1831–1851. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Reyntiens, Patrick (1964) Review of Painting & Sculpture of a Decade 54–64, Blackfriars Review, July.

Rivers, Larry (1962) “Larry Rivers: A Self-Portrait”. The Listener, 11 and 18 January.

Solkin, David H. (ed.) (2001) Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House, 1780–1836. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Tate Gallery (1960) Picasso. Arts Council.

Tate Gallery (1964) Painting and Sculpture of a Decade, 1954–64. April–June, Gulbenkian Foundation.

Tisdall, Hans (1964) cover design for Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. London: Jonathan Cape.

Whitechapel Gallery (1964) New Generation. March–May.

Wrigley, Richard (1993) The Origins of French Art Criticism: From the Ancien Régime to the Restoration. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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1964: A Year of Exhibitions
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DOI

Introduction

Over the past few decades, the study of art criticism has come to the fore as one of the most promising new areas of art-historical research. This development owes much to the policy undertaken by recently established journals and related editorial initiatives. The journal Word & Image, launched by John Dixon Hunt in 1985, opened the door to wide-ranging discussions of the subject—from classical ekphrasis to the present day. In 1988, Norman Bryson initiated a series of studies by French- as well as English-speaking authors that was significantly named “Cambridge New Art History and Criticism”.1 In the following decade, Cambridge University Press sponsored what was the first comprehensive attempt to make available to contemporary scholars the wealth of critical material that was lying largely unseen in the French periodical press of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1991, under the general editorship of Francis Haskell, Neil McWilliam and his colleagues produced two comprehensive bibliographies of French Salon Criticism that covered the entire period extending from 1699 to 1851.2 A pioneering example of the dividend that could be obtained from such a thorough scrutiny of period criticism was Richard Wrigley’s The Origins of French Art Criticism dating from 1993.3 By this point, Michael Fried was already arguing for a methodology that made use of critical material with a view to challenging traditional strategies for interpreting visual works of art. In his book Manet’s Modernism (1996), he claimed that the paintings of Manet and his fellow painters could be best understood within the terminology of a contemporary discourse of painting that had its own history, rather than by paying exhaustive attention to the reading of individual works.4

This trajectory demonstrates the way in which art criticism has been brought into the fold of art history, to some degree as a direct outcome of new publishing ventures. But it is no accident that the foregoing examples relate primarily to the study of French art history and criticism. A rather different argument needs to be followed with regard to the case of British art criticism, though it is equally clear that the task has been recognised as timely. At least from the outset of the nineteenth century, the most significant art criticism is coloured not so much by the influence of a critical discourse embedded in past theory as by a direct and acknowledged acquaintance with artistic practice. William Hazlitt is doubtless the first clear example of an English critic who embeds within his writing the recollection of his own, admittedly quite limited, experience as a painter. John Ruskin needs no defence as an artist of exceptional talent in his own right. Indeed, the current popularity of Ruskin, which is manifested in the many events of his bicentenary year, sends a strong signal that criticism and creativity need not be divorced. It is surely significant that Tate Archives have already developed research projects on the papers of two critics who were also well recognised as artists: Adrian Stokes, whose critical output mainly took the form of book-length studies with a historical component; and Robert Melville, whose critical practice took the form of regular articles for The New Statesman and The Architectural Review. The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art has recently struck out in this direction by acquiring the archive of Brian Sewell. The combative critic of the Evening Standard surely had more column inches at his disposal than any of his colleagues, and however debatable his conclusions, his arguments were invariably well informed and challenging. Such an acquisition is a striking way of proving the Centre’s commitment as “the only archive repository in the UK formally acknowledged by the National Archives as a collecting institution for the papers of art critics”.5

This online presentation is an opening contribution to what will be an ongoing series published in British Art Studies called “Animating the Archive”. It is designed as a contribution to the context that has already been briefly outlined here. It makes use of the distinctive possibilities available through online publication in the belief that new technical features can stimulate new directions of research. Rather than standing alone as a polished piece of research, it also asks the question: what new avenues of research in this particular area might we fruitfully take? It goes without saying that these writings by an embryonic critic are not especially significant in themselves. But the specific form in which they are presented, ranging from journal notes through typescripts to printed publication, opens up a material dimension that the online facility can present for scrutiny. What is more, the documentary value of the critical comments is surely enhanced by the fact that 1964 was indeed not just a “Year of Exhibitions”, but a year in which several exhibitions of diverse but equivalent importance took place: America’s current stars, Rauschenberg and Johns at the Whitechapel Gallery (interspersed with Britain’s “New Generation”) and the unprecedentedly broad Gulbenkian exhibition of recent international art at the Tate Gallery that was upstaged (at least in this critic’s book) by the lucid and coherent display achieved by documenta III at Kassel.

This focus on exhibitions brings to the fore another respect in which recent art history has successfully incorporated a previously little studied, yet vital, aspect of historical reception. Some of this interest may be traced to the posthumous publication of Francis Haskell’s book, The Ephemeral Museum (2000), subtitled “Old Master Paintings and the Rise of the Art Exhibition”.6 Haskell had been assiduous in reviewing art exhibitions for various periodical publications from the mid-1950s onwards. The unprecedentedly broad display of French painting, De David à Delacroix, which opened at the Grand Palais, Paris, in November 1974 provoked what was perhaps his most vivid response. As he rightly noted, this was an art-historical milestone: it gave “the first opportunity for a large European public to see some of the results of this radical reappraisal of one crucial period of French art.” But the effect was more momentous than that. As Haskell suggested in a striking phrase, viewing such an exhibition was “an experience comparable with trying on a new pair of spectacles”.7 It is surely significant that Haskell chose to define the change in perception in terms of a specifically technical modification. When putting on a new pair of spectacles, we not only see new things—we see everything differently.

The question then arises: how can such a vivid experience of art exhibitions be incorporated into the history of art? One method which has proved its worth is to recreate the ambiance of a past exhibition, ideally within the space where it would have been originally installed. This was the achievement of David Solkin’s 2001 exhibition Art on the Line, held in the Great Room at Somerset House that had served for many years to house the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts.8 A judicious selection of works was achieved, not claiming to reproduce any one exhibition but carefully conserving the important distinctions of genre and scale in its installation. Yet this enlightening show was in its turn, by its very nature, ephemeral. The recent initiative of the Paul Mellon Centre, working in conjunction with the Royal Academy, has been to put online, and make permanently available, the catalogues of all the Annual Exhibitions that took place at the Academy between 1769 and 2018. Utilising the resources of digital display, this project makes it possible to view in considerable detail a large proportion of the works that were placed on exhibition, while at the same time facilitating many individual tracks of research into specific artists, genres, and themes.9

This present exercise in “animating the archive” is, of course, far more limited in its scope. It is by comparison a minimal project, dealing with the exhibitions of hardly more than one year and the writings of one critic. But it will hopefully prove a stimulus to other exercises and experiments which are suited to the possibilities of online commentary and display. The justification for making these writings available is that they were indeed “eye-opening” for me, and hopefully they still communicate something of the excitement of my experience. I was at the time a graduate student at King’s College, Cambridge, moving from Cambridge to Paris in autumn 1964, when I began my second year of postgraduate research in the history of historiography. The publications that offered me a platform as a critic were precisely those that had welcomed Francis Haskell’s early reviews in the first years of the 1950s: the undergraduate literary magazine Granta, and The Cambridge Review, published by Heffers (the university printer and bookshop), and edited by a succession of postgraduates and younger fellows. By comparison with professional critics writing for national newspapers and magazines, I was allotted a generous amount of space, and managed to work out some of the main parameters that would define the approach of my first book on contemporary art, Experimental Painting (1970).10 The unpolished character of the texts perhaps makes it easier to discern the variety of stimuli that I derived from my eclectic reading, as well as registering the impact produced by the sight of so much exciting new work. My movement from the figurative art of Bacon and Giacometti to the interpretation of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s concrete poetry could be seen (quoting the words of one peer reviewer for this feature) as “the story of a transformation in thinking”.

No attempt will be made to reproduce the many works of art that are cited. What will be shown are reproductions of the catalogue illustrations. Since this is essentially an archival project, the focus is placed specifically on the role that these images played in accompanying and contextualising the critical writings. With this end in mind, the successive compositional stages of a review—involving a handwritten draft and a typescript—are also brought to the fore. Extracts from a contemporary journal are shown in their original form (and dramatised in a spoken recording) while samples of my own visual work at the time are included. The form and design of the respective exhibition catalogues will be a further feature that comes into prominence in a particular series of images. As a necessary concomitant to the study of exhibitions, the study of the extensive history of exhibition catalogues is now attracting an increasing amount of attention.11 My own concern with the aesthetic and technical aspects of typography dates back to my school days. My interest in the varieties of lettering was rekindled in the period covered by this display. In their overall design and in their typography, the catalogues that greeted the spectators of the 1960s can be understood to enshrine a definite message of their own.

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X – A Quarterly Review, 1, no. 1 (Autumn 1959): jacket.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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X

X was my point of entry into the world of art by way of little magazines. With its generous format and list of contributors outlined in bold capitals, it caught my eye among the periodicals displayed in the Winchester branch of W.H. Smith. I was still at school in the autumn term of 1959, though my forthcoming entrance to Cambridge had been confirmed by Christmas. Having myself edited a school literary magazine, titled Ariel, I was intrigued by the promise of this new publication. I subscribed to it for all of the subsequent seven issues. X ceased publication in 1962.

What strikes me in retrospect is the point that X had adopted, from the start, two major directions in policy that might be considered to be somewhat disparate. On the one hand, it featured English figurative painting, with an emphasis on the traditional genre of portraiture. On the other hand, it published experimental writing of various kinds by European authors. This approach testified to the adventurous and, in a certain sense, complementary interests of the three editors. They were the South African-born poet David Wright, the Irish painter Patrick Swift, and the British poet David Gascoyne, who maintained close connections with the French surrealist movement. I noted in particular the focus (beginning in the first issue), on the recent writings of Samuel Beckett and those of his less well-known Swiss-born friend, Robert Pinget, who was one of the pioneers of the French “nouveau roman”. Among visual artists, the Swiss-born painter and sculptor, Alberto Giacometti, who had gained the attention of Parisian writers like Jean Genet, also featured in this first issue with reproductions of drawings and texts translated from French. In subsequent issues, several painters associated (as was Swift) with the Beaux Arts Gallery in London came into focus. Those who were given full-page black and white photographic reproductions on coated paper included Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, and Michael Andrews.

I would continue to keep up with the work of virtually all these figures. The novels of Robert Pinget were the subject of my first major essay outside of school and university publications (London Magazine 4, no. 7 [1964]). Before 1960, I had already had the opportunity of calculating the unexpected weight of Auerbach’s paint-laden pictures when I helped to hang an Arts Council travelling show of current work in the school museum at Winchester. I later visited one of his exhibitions at the Beaux Arts in the early 1960s, and enquired timorously about the price of his drawings. But I was scared off by the piercing gaze of the gallery director, Helen Lessore, who enquired if this suspiciously youthful visitor was acting on behalf of someone else! Michael Andrews’ large painting, The Garden Party, became very familiar to me when it was lent by the Gulbenkian Foundation to hang in the Dining Hall of Rutherford College, when I joined the University of Kent in 1967. Together with several other works by Auerbach, this splendid piece was discussed (and illustrated in colour) in my book, Experimental Painting (1970).

Giacometti and Bacon were, however, the two artists whom I found most challenging in the period leading up to 1964. This was unquestionably because of their intense preoccupation with the issue of figuration, and the radical approach they adopted to their respective media. In Experimental Painting, I classed the works of both under the rubric of “Destruction”, together with the “Autodestructive” art of Gustav Metzger. The other directions that I chose to follow there were “Abstraction”, “Construction”, and “Reduction” (a category that contained Johns and Rauschenberg).

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Stefan Themerson, Kurt Schwitters in England, 1940-1948, (London: Gaberbocchus, 1958): jacket.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Early Readings

Two books that I acquired in 1960 and 1961 stand out as pointers to my future interests.

I bought Stefan Themerson’s Kurt Schwitters in England in 1960 with prize money from my performance in the Hawkins English Literature competition at Winchester College. Published in 1958, this was an extraordinarily ambitious experiment in book design, which faithfully mirrored the anarchic versatility of the artist himself. Themerson himself later accepted our invitation to come and speak on Schwitters to the Cambridge Society of Arts, whose programme I organised jointly with Philip Steadman in 1962/1963. The talk was notable for the fact that Themerson handed round some of the collages and small, improvised sculptures that were illustrated in his book. I reviewed some of the new publications by Themerson’s Gaberbocchus Press in Granta, which was then still a student-run publication in Cambridge, picking up on the point that “Gaberbocchus” was a translation of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” in order to exclaim: “Gaberbocchus still burbles as it comes!”. Themerson later became a friend, and would contribute to a thematic issue on “The Boundaries of the Humanities”, which I published as Editor of 20th Century Studies in 1974.

Richard Hamilton published his typographic version of “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even” in 1960. It was an expensive item. In a diary entry of 23 August 1961, I stated that “Duchamp’s book of preparation for the Bride etc.” was a purchase that I wanted to make: “because the creative process is so important in an age without much spontaneity—and to an artist without an art-form.” Luckily, a young woman whom I had met in the Dordogne (while serving as English tutor to the children of Josephine Baker) was working in a London bookshop. She obtained it for me at the trade price late in 1961. Duchamp was then steadily acquiring a notoriety that he never lost in subsequent decades. My copy suffered in the 1970s by being loaned to students. One of them kindly supplemented the damaged article with a new copy of the third edition, published in 1976 by the German practitioner and theorist of typography, Hansjörg Mayer.

Besides allowing the reader to follow the intricate stages of the composition of Duchamp’s “Bride” or Large Glass, the work could be considered as an exercise in virtuoso typography, which drew attention to the eccentric formation, as well as clarifying the conceptual message, of Duchamp’s manuscript notes. The supporting essays by George Heard Hamilton and Richard Hamilton were reserved to the end, and set very small in a uniform sans-serif typeface.

I attached great importance to both Schwitters and Duchamp in interpreting the art of the early 1960s. Both of them came to the fore in the first paragraph of my review of the 1964 Rauschenberg exhibition. Both of these books also called my attention to the infinite diversity of letter forms, and the potentiality they held for expression, as well as communication. They helped to inform my developing interest in concrete poetry (as signalled by my essay of November 1964 in Image). Hansjörg Mayer was the first to publish one of my concrete poems, in a portfolio of work by English-speaking poets, which appeared in 1965.

  • (London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co., 1960): jacket.
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    Figure 3.


    Richard Hamilton, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. A Typographic Version of Marcel Duchamp's Green Box, (London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co., 1960): jacket.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • (London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co., 1960): 1.
    DOI

    Figure 4.


    Richard Hamilton, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. A Typographic Version of Marcel Duchamp's Green Box, (London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co., 1960): 1.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • (London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co., 1960): 1.
    DOI

    Figure 5.


    Richard Hamilton, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. A Typographic Version of Marcel Duchamp's Green Box, (London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co., 1960): 1.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 3

Richard Hamilton, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. A Typographic Version of Marcel Duchamp's Green Box, (London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co., 1960): jacket.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 4

Richard Hamilton, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. A Typographic Version of Marcel Duchamp's Green Box, (London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co., 1960): 1.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 5

Richard Hamilton, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. A Typographic Version of Marcel Duchamp's Green Box, (London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co., 1960): 1.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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R.B. Kitaj: Pictures with Commentary, Pictures Without Commentary, (Marlborough Gallery, London, 1963): jacket.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI

Hosting Larry Rivers and Discovering Gombrich

My reaction to the exhibition of R.B. Kitaj at the Marlborough Gallery in 1963 was one of complete bafflement. I was entirely unprepared for the iconographical complexity, bearing as it did on historical figures whom I barely knew like Rosa Luxemburg and Walter Benjamin. Although I was struck by the originality of his technique, I could not relate it to what I was beginning to appreciate about the contemporary development of American painting. Though I must also have noticed his presence in subsequent exhibitions like documenta, where he was represented by his figure drawings, I had little to say about them.

By contrast, I was responsive to the work of the American painter Larry Rivers. This was probably because his profile was particularly high in Britain at the time. He had given talks on the BBC under the title, “Larry Rivers: A Self-Portrait”, which were published in The Listener (11 January and 18 January 1962). Of course, the talks themselves has been delivered without visual illustrations. But Rivers had employed a striking verbal image to convey the intended impact of his paintings. This clever vehicle of self-promotion was probably what led us to invite him to give a talk to the Cambridge University Society of Arts in autumn 1963. Rivers described the shock effect that he wished to instil in his paintings as comparable to that of taking hold of a deer by its antlers, and having the antlers break off unexpectedly, thus remaining fixed in one’s hand. Rivers certainly did not disappoint us on his visit to Cambridge, having mysteriously picked up a woman companion on the train. In the middle of the modest meal which we had prepared for him in our garret in Green Street, he exclaimed: “Now I’m going to give myself away. Have you any Teachers?”

I had been bewildered at Kitaj’s reference in his Marlborough catalogue to the obstructive attitude of the Warburg Institute. At the time, I had no knowledge of this institution’s existence. Nonetheless, by far most important theoretical stimulus to my critical writing in 1964 was Ernst Gombrich’s collection of essays, Meditations on a Hobby Horse. Although this had been published in 1963, I doubt whether I had read any of the essays before the end of that year. My interest in Giacometti and Francis Bacon, much advertised in my Munich notes of September 1963, followed quite different lines. I was fascinated by Delacroix, both as a painter and as a writer. In fact, it was precisely because of the lucidity of his introspective commentary that I had begun to look closely at the quality of his paintings. I had also been captivated, with reference to Giacometti in particular, by the philosophical and humanistic interpretations of art elaborated by French authorities like Genet and Sartre. Though it was published in Granta as late as autumn 1964, my essay on Francis Bacon, which also involved Giacometti, clearly reflected this reading.

Gombrich’s actual subject matter impinged hardly at all, at that time or subsequently, on any direct treatment of the varieties of contemporary art, let alone on the work of Rauschenberg and Johns, with which I was confronted in 1964. But he drew on references to domains such as experimental psychology in order to present a coherent and compelling theory of representation as such. This soon appeared to me to be an indispensable tool in coming to terms with the art of Rauschenberg in particular. The essay that provided Gombrich with his memorable title was uppermost in my mind when I wrote my essay on Rauschenberg for The Cambridge Review.

A second essay from the same collection by Gombrich, titled “Expression and Communication”, was no less important in stimulating the new ideas on the interpretation of concrete poetry. These were developed for the first time in my essay for Image, published in November 1964.

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Ernst Gombrich, Meditations on a Hobby Horse and Other Essays on the Theory of Art, (London: Phaidon, 1963): jacket.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Cambridge Review, Book Number, (University of Cambridge, 1964): jacket.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Englishness and Book Design

The paperback edition of Pevsner’s The Englishness of English Art was sent to me for review early in 1964. My review appeared in Granta on 14 May 1964. While welcoming the chapters on “Perpendicular England” and “Picturesque England”, I deplored the fact that no revisions had been made to the section on “modern British painting”, which smacked too much of the original date of publication in 1955. Pevsner had limited himself to a brief mention of Christopher Wood, John Piper, and Eric Ravilious. I asked if he could have given us “some rather more contemporary Aunt Sallies”?

Anglia TV, situated in studios in Norwich, chose to invite me as an art critic to a couple of televised round tables on contemporary themes held in spring 1964. One topic on which I was asked to speak was the contemporary exhibition of Rauschenberg at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Also under discussion between the participants in these broadcasts was Ernest Hemingway’s vivid memoir of his experience of Paris in the 1920s, which involved reminiscences of many of the outstanding artists living there at the time.

The designer selected by Peregrine books for the new edition of Pevsner was Herbert Spencer. Whatever Pevsner’s reservations about the direction of post-war English art, this was a crisp, rectilinear design, forming a modernist collage out of the geometrically arranged sans-serif titles and photographic details of some of the historic buildings discussed. Spencer had founded the magazine Typographica in 1949, and, in 1963, he published Dom Sylvester Houédard’s article on the work of Ian Hamilton Finlay—the first discussion on the subject of concrete poetry to appear in Britain.

The design of the book jacket of the Hemingway memoir commissioned by Jonathan Cape was by the German-born artist Hans Tisdall, who had begun working with them in the 1950s. Rather than adopting a specific typeface, Tisdall devises an overall composition out of his hand-drawn lettering. His distinctive letter forms were, however, ultimately converted into a typeface by the epigrapher and letterer, Michael Harvey, a pupil of Reynolds Stone and, as a stone-carver and letterer, one of the poet Ian Hamilton Finlay’s most important long-term collaborators.

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Nikolaus Pevsner, The Englishness of English Art, (London: Penguin, 1964): jacket design by Herbert Spencer. Reviewed in Granta, 14 April 1964.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Nikolaus Pevsner, The Englishness Of English Art, (London: The Architectural Press, 1956): jacket.

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Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast, (London: Jonathan Cape, 1964): jacket design by Hans Tisdall.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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A Visit to Munich

For a fortnight in September 1963, I visited Munich, staying in a student house close to the artistic quarter of Schwabing which had been recommended to me by a Cambridge friend. The ostensible reason for this visit was to brush up my German, which had been neglected since a perfunctory study for a few terms at school. I was beginning my second year as a postgraduate student, having narrowed down my field of study to the French politician, historian, and man of letters, Prosper de Barante. It had been impressed upon me by my supervisor, Herbert Butterfield, that the ability to read German academic texts was a prerequisite for anyone wishing to investigate the issues of the history of historiography.

I did take this mission very seriously, to the extent of bringing a copy of the works of the early nineteenth-century German dramatist Georg Büchner with me, and reading through his play on the rivalries of the French Revolution, Dantons Tod (Danton’s Death). I had probably become acquainted with the writing of Büchner because another of his plays supplied the plot for Anton Berg’s opera, Wozzeck. But this was not the only text that I was studying in Munich. I also brought with me the Pléiade edition of the work of Benjamin Constant, the French liberal politician and author, who was at one stage a close ally of Barante. The third, and probably the most absorbing, of my sources for study was, however, my edition of the Journal of Delacroix. Perhaps it was the repeated perusal of this extraordinary record of Delacroix’s inner life that impelled me to write my own journal, which commented retrospectively on the first ten days of my visit to Munich.

This interest in Delacroix’s intimate writings was undoubtedly touched off by visiting the centenary exhibition of his paintings in the Grande Galerie of the Louvre. The exhibition opened in May 1963, and I would have seen it in the early summer, when I was also following the critical reception of this major artistic event. My copy of the catalogue still contains a cutting from The Times of 6 August 1963, titled “The Debt that Modern Painting Owes to Delacroix”, in which reference is also made to “the active intelligence so manifest in the Journal”. But it was of course Delacroix’s art, and not his writing, that galvanised me initially, and indeed it was one painting in particular: his Femmes d’Algers dans leur appartement (first displayed at the 1834 Salon in Paris).

I penned a rapid sketch of this painting on the reverse of a letter which bears the date 27 June 1963. It shares the little sheet of paper with a list of book references that include Büchner and the Delacroix Journal, as well as featuring a few other titles relevant to my impending visit to Munich: a German Dictionary and Erich Heller’s well-known study of modern German philosophers, Disinherited Mind. But the selection of this particular painting for my own amateurish efforts at reproduction can surely be explained by the fact that I had seen one of Picasso’s virtuoso variations on the same work, dated 1955, in the Picasso exhibition at the Tate Gallery in 1960. In January 1964, I was still experimenting with this motif, this time in watercolour, though I decided to cut out only the two right-hand figures in the composition from what must have been an unsatisfactory whole. Two oil paintings, one small and the other large in scale, eventuated from this series of studies, though by that point any reminiscence of Delacroix’s original painting was far from obvious.

The two sketches are illustrated here to underline a point which also becomes clear in my journal. At the same time as I was pursuing my German reading agenda, I was painting my own topographical watercolours of the city and its surroundings. I had been accumulating similar studies for several years, and so was able to make retrospective comparisons, for example, between the subject of the Frauenkirch seen from the “English Garden”, and a previous view of the Edinburgh skyline seen from Inverleith House. I expressed the feeling that these Munich studies were the best that I had ever done. Not surprisingly, this enthusiasm over my own paintings spills across into my commentary on the art that I was discovering at the same time in the Munich galleries, from Dürer and Altdorfer to Erich Heckel. And it is evident in my empathetic description of some of the architectural monuments around the city, such as the Nymphenburg Palace and the rococo Theatine Church.

As regards my art criticism, the journal makes a prediction that was not fulfilled: “My articles on Delacroix and Giacometti are just about ready to write.” My prior experience of the major Giacometti exhibition at the Beyeler Gallery in Basel was indeed, as can be seen in my entry, the first vivid recollection that was prompted by the writing of this journal. But the point remains that both Giacometti and Delacroix continued for a while to be central points of reference for my critical work. This is made very clear in my subsequent article on Francis Bacon for Granta (17 October 1964), which takes the work of both artists as points of reference for understanding the historical significance of his art. My short “Note from Paris” (Granta, 28 November 1964) also picks up on “recent remarks” by Giacometti in favour of “Pop art”. Finally, in my Experimental Painting (1970), I once more approached the work of Bacon by way of Giacometti and Delacroix.

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Stephen Bann, Schloss Nymphenburg, Munich, watercolour, 1963.

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    Figure 13.


    Stephen Bann, Journal recording the author's travel, in Munich, Belfort, and Basel during September 1963.


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    Figure 14.


    Stephen Bann, Journal recording the author's travel, September 1963.


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    Figure 15.


    Stephen Bann, Journal recording the author's travel, September 1963.


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    Figure 16.


    Stephen Bann, Journal recording the author's travel, September 1963.


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    Figure 17.


    Stephen Bann, Journal recording the author's travel, September 1963.


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Stephen Bann, Journal recording the author's travel, in Munich, Belfort, and Basel during September 1963.

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Stephen Bann, Journal recording the author's travel, September 1963.

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Stephen Bann, Journal recording the author's travel, September 1963.

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Stephen Bann, Journal recording the author's travel, September 1963.

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Stephen Bann, Journal recording the author's travel, September 1963.

  • Louvre, Paris, May-September 1963, (Paris: Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 1963): jacket.
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    Figure 18.


    Exhibition catalogue, Eugène Delacroix: 1798-1863 Exposition du Centenaire, Louvre, Paris, May-September 1963, (Paris: Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 1963): jacket.


  • pastel, 28 x 42 cm. Collection of the Louvre Museum, Paris (MI890). Reproduced in <i>Eugène Delacroix: 1798-1863 Exposition du Centenaire</i>, (Paris: Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 1963).
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    Figure 19.


    Eugène Delacroix, Study for “Les Femmes d'Alger”, pastel, 28 x 42 cm. Collection of the Louvre Museum, Paris (MI890). Reproduced in Eugène Delacroix: 1798-1863 Exposition du Centenaire, (Paris: Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 1963).


  • 1834, oil on canvas, 74 x 93 cm. Collection of the Louvre Museum (MD 2015-9). Reproduced in <i>Eugène Delacroix: 1798-1863 Exposition du Centenaire</i>, (Paris: Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 1963).
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    Figure 20.


    Eugène Delacroix, Les Femmes d'Alger, 1834, oil on canvas, 74 x 93 cm. Collection of the Louvre Museum (MD 2015-9). Reproduced in Eugène Delacroix: 1798-1863 Exposition du Centenaire, (Paris: Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 1963).


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Exhibition catalogue, Eugène Delacroix: 1798-1863 Exposition du Centenaire, Louvre, Paris, May-September 1963, (Paris: Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 1963): jacket.

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Eugène Delacroix, Study for “Les Femmes d'Alger”, pastel, 28 x 42 cm. Collection of the Louvre Museum, Paris (MI890). Reproduced in Eugène Delacroix: 1798-1863 Exposition du Centenaire, (Paris: Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 1963).

DOI Figure 20

Eugène Delacroix, Les Femmes d'Alger, 1834, oil on canvas, 74 x 93 cm. Collection of the Louvre Museum (MD 2015-9). Reproduced in Eugène Delacroix: 1798-1863 Exposition du Centenaire, (Paris: Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 1963).

DOI Figure 21

Stephen Bann, Les Femmes d'Algers, ink sketch after Eugène Delacroix.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Stephen Bann, Les Femmes d'Algers, watercolour sketch after Eugène Delacroix, 13 January 1964.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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    Figure 23.


    Stephen, “Rauschenberg and Representation”, The Cambridge Review, 85, no. 2072, 7 March 1964: 333.


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    Figure 24.


    Stephen, “Rauschenberg and Representation”, The Cambridge Review, 85, no. 2072, 7 March 1964: 335.


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    Figure 25.


    Stephen, “Rauschenberg and Representation”, The Cambridge Review, 85, no. 2072, 7 March 1964: 336.


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Stephen, “Rauschenberg and Representation”, The Cambridge Review, 85, no. 2072, 7 March 1964: 333.

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Stephen, “Rauschenberg and Representation”, The Cambridge Review, 85, no. 2072, 7 March 1964: 335.

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Stephen, “Rauschenberg and Representation”, The Cambridge Review, 85, no. 2072, 7 March 1964: 336.

  • Whitechapel Gallery, February–March 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): jacket.
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    Figure 26.


    Robert Rauschenberg: Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings and Combines 1949-1969, Whitechapel Gallery, February–March 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): jacket.


  • Whitechapel Gallery, February–March 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): 3.
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    Figure 27.


    Robert Rauschenberg: Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings and Combines 1949-1969, Whitechapel Gallery, February–March 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): 3.


  • Whitechapel Gallery, February–March 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plates 22–23.
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    Figure 28.


    Robert Rauschenberg: Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings and Combines 1949-1969, Whitechapel Gallery, February–March 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plates 22–23.


  • Whitechapel Gallery, February–March 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plates 24–25.
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    Figure 29.


    Robert Rauschenberg: Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings and Combines 1949-1969, Whitechapel Gallery, February–March 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plates 24–25.


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Robert Rauschenberg: Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings and Combines 1949-1969, Whitechapel Gallery, February–March 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): jacket.

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Robert Rauschenberg: Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings and Combines 1949-1969, Whitechapel Gallery, February–March 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): 3.

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Robert Rauschenberg: Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings and Combines 1949-1969, Whitechapel Gallery, February–March 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plates 22–23.

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Robert Rauschenberg: Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings and Combines 1949-1969, Whitechapel Gallery, February–March 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plates 24–25.

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Arts in Cambridge

Cambridge was an excellent place to be in the early 1960s, as far as modern and contemporary art were concerned. The resources of the Fitzwilliam Museum had been supplemented by the initiative of Jim Ede, who from 1956 had reconstructed the cottages of Kettle’s Yard and filled them with his personal collection of British and International Modernist art. I was a frequent visitor. The Faculty of Architecture, under whose wing the History of Art was blossoming into a degree subject, was headed by Sir Leslie Martin, architect of the London Festival Hall, and the former collaborator with Naum Gabo and Ben Nicholson in the Circle group of the 1930s. It was in the newly built faculty lecture theatre at Scroope Terrace that the Society of Arts, organised by Philip Steadman and myself, held many of its meetings with invited speakers over the years 1963–1964.

Cambridge also possessed, at the time, the only exhibition gallery outside London which was directly sponsored by the Arts Council. Its programme included important shows of contemporary British artists such as the “Situation” painters (so named by the critic Lawrence Alloway), which held an exhibition there not long after their first manifestation as a group in September 1960. I myself began to publish reviews of current exhibitions in 1962–1963 as an editor of Broadsheet, the roncotyped magazine edited by students, which covered the full range of artistic events taking place throughout the city. Though I took time off to praise the occasional London exhibition, such as Kokoschka at the Tate in October 1962, I was mainly focused on covering what was shown at the two commercial galleries in Cambridge (Heffers and the King Street Gallery) and, in particular, the Arts Council Gallery itself. It was through Muriel Wilson, the custodian of the latter and wife of the architect and collector Colin St John Wilson, that I then began, in 1964, to contribute very brief notes on the occasional Cambridge shows to the London-based magazine, The Arts Review.

The corollary was that I also began to write much longer reviews of London shows for a Cambridge-based publication. The Cambridge Review was a broadly based “Journal of University Life and Thought”, priced at 1 shilling, which was published every Saturday during term. It had two editors, changing yearly, and in spring 1964, it was edited by two young English literature dons: Pat Rogers, an eighteenth-century specialist who later made his career in the United States; and David Morse, a modernist who moved to the University of Sussex. I can only suppose that I proposed to one of them that I should write an article on the work of Rauschenberg. But their acceptance must also have been a measure of the considerable stir which the exhibition had caused when it opened at the Whitechapel Gallery in February 1964. I opened my review with a quotation of the artist’s “widely publicised statement”. Before the exhibition concluded at the Whitechapel, I had been summoned to the television studios of Anglia TV at Norwich to take part in a critics’ forum at which the work of Rauschenberg was under discussion.

There can be no doubt that the reading of Gombrich’s essay, “Meditations on a Hobby Horse”, had provided the interpretative framework for my review. But its message was reinforced from the start by a remark that I had gleaned from an interview with Giacometti, which explained that “real hair could never serve to give the impression of hair on a statue.” No less relevant to my earlier enthusiasms was the suggestion that Rauschenberg should be placed “in the lineage” of Duchamp and Schwitters. What must be less obvious is the cross-fertilisation from my doctoral research. This comes across in my analogy between Rauschenberg’s desire to integrate the object and the development of the mise en scène of French theatre in the Romantic period.12 The final quotation from Ernst Fischer’s The Necessity of Art provides a somewhat incongruous conclusion in emphasising the “magical quality of representation”.13 But as an enthusiast for the critical writings of Michael Fried, I look back with interest on my development of the proposition that “the Rokeby Venus … remains magnificently self-absorbed”.14

The courteous reply that I received from Anton Ehrenzweig on sending him a copy of my Rauschenberg review was a much appreciated dividend. Ehrenzweig was one of the speakers whom we had invited to speak at the Society of Arts. He had delivered a fascinating paper, related to his special interest in textile design, on the subject of the dangers of ‘over-precise visualisation in the arts’. This would later appear in a definitive version in his highly influential book of essays, The Hidden Order of Art, published posthumously in 1967.

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    Figure 30.


    Letter from Anton Ehrenzweig to Stephen Bann, 22 April 1964.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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    Figure 31.


    Letter from Anton Ehrenzweig to Stephen Bann, 22 April 1964.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Letter from Anton Ehrenzweig to Stephen Bann, 22 April 1964.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 31

Letter from Anton Ehrenzweig to Stephen Bann, 22 April 1964.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

“Coletville”

1B Colet Gardens,

London, W.14.

Riverside 9471

 

22.4.64

 

Dear Mr. Bann,

 

I have returned to your paper several times making rather slow progress. It is a good paper dealing with a very important problem that also exists in sculpture. I agree with your high evaluation of Rauschenberg, your comparisons between him & Dachamp & Schwitters. I feel that the early work will become increasingly important ex post; once we have appreciated Rauschenberg’s mastery over the “intact” painted surface we will begin the same “intactness” in the earlier work where real objects seem to, but in fact do not, upset the painted surface. Your most perceptive statement – to my mind – is your thesis that the real objects alternate between being sucked into the canvas & appearing as 3-dimensional objects. I like your comment on the value of the chair as a real object and as an adjunct to the painted surface; also your reference to real objects as parts of the decor. In a Reinhart production of Goldoni’s “Der Diener Freier Herren” (The Servant of two Masters) chairs were painted on to the backcloth. The servant brought in also a “real” chair, but proceeded to sit down on a “painted” chair (which involved a gymnastic feat as there was nothing to support his behind). Reinhart thus insisted that the painted chair was more real and promising of rest than the 3-dimensional chair. What I mean to say the use of 3-dimensional objects in theatre decor must be designed by an artist of Rauschenberg’s calibre who can – sometimes at least – annihilate the difference between 2 and three dimensions. I am sure that after modern Bayreuth (without real objects like the dragon) there will be a return to Rauschenberg.

 

May I say that the manipulation (or annihilation) of commonsense space belongs to the core of all visual art and – in a different sense – even to music. You have certainly tackled a vital problem in an original and instructed way.

 

With my best wishes

Yours

Anton Ehrenzweig

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    Figure 32.


    Stephen Bann, “Bomberg, Picabia and the New Generation”, The Cambridge Review, 85, no. 2075, 9 May 1964: 402.


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    Figure 33.


    Stephen Bann, “Bomberg, Picabia and the New Generation”, The Cambridge Review, 85, no. 2075, 9 May 1964: 403.


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Stephen Bann, “Bomberg, Picabia and the New Generation”, The Cambridge Review, 85, no. 2075, 9 May 1964: 402.

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Stephen Bann, “Bomberg, Picabia and the New Generation”, The Cambridge Review, 85, no. 2075, 9 May 1964: 403.

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The New Generation

Coming directly after the Rauschenberg show, the exhibition of the “New Generation” of British artists in March–May 1964 confirmed the Whitechapel Gallery as the most exciting venue for contemporary art in London. Its Director, Bryan Robertson, had in fact begun his career as an exhibition organiser when managing the art gallery which occupied the top floor of Heffer’s main bookshop in Cambridge. Nor was Cambridge unaware of the success which he had achieved at the Whitechapel. An editorial in Granta noted that: “the government’s competition for the Tate Directorship is taking place […] secretly.” The editor, presumably Reg Gadney, noted: “it would appear that Mr Bryan Robertson is a clear favourite; certainly his success at the Whitechapel merits every accolade that is available.”15

Granta had already pinned its colours to the mast by inviting one of the “New Generation” artists, the painter Anthony Donaldson, to design a series of front covers for the magazine, based on a grainy black and white photograph of a nude.

My earlier piece for The Cambridge Review had been not so much a critical review of the Rauschenberg show as an essay that probed the theoretical concept of representation. In this shorter piece, I attempted a round-up of what seemed to me to be the most significant of the art exhibitions that were taking place in London in spring 1964. Besides focusing on the show at the Whitechapel, I considered what had been exhibited at what was probably London’s most prestigious commercial gallery, the Marlborough in Bond Street. I also took note of what was being shown in the nearby premises of the non-commercial Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in Dover Street. To some extent, I viewed the assignment as a way of engaging with other critics: David Sylvester, with whom I disagreed about the comparison between Bomberg and Soutine; David Thompson, whose choice of the words “toughness” and “ambiguity” coincided with my own intuition about the collective strengths of the New Generation; and indeed Guillaume Apollinaire whose comments on Picabia’s Orphist pictures (not actually shown at the ICA) had already struck a responsive chord.

I was clearly conscious of the difficulty of writing about three such disparate shows. Bomberg and his school had already become well known to me, since my subscription to X magazine had attracted me to the exhibitions of the Beaux Arts Gallery. Picabia was more of an unknown quantity, apart from what I had been able to glean from Apollinaire’s brilliant writings on Cubism. But I can recognise here in the structure of the review the early development of my tendency to advance the critical argument by means of a formal comparison. Having drawn the sharp contrast between Bomberg and Picabia, I then argue that the New Generation have nothing whatever in common with Bomberg, but will gain in significance if seen in the context of the historical avant-garde as exemplified by Picabia. This enables me to put a new gloss on some of David Thompson’s acute characterisations, with which I was broadly in agreement.

I can think of no obvious reason for my decision to bring in the concept of “psychical distance”, which had been published just over fifty years prior and derived from the work of the Cambridge aesthetician, Edward Bullough. Probably my reading of Gombrich had alerted me to the need for a conceptual, and even scientific, base to judgements involving aesthetic appreciation.

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The New Generation: 1964, Whitechapel Gallery, March–May 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): jacket.

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Granta, 69, no. 1236, 14 May 1964. Jacket image by Anthony Donaldson.

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Art in London and Kassel

These two pieces published in Cambridge in October 1964 had awaited the revival of Granta and The Cambridge Review at the beginning of the new academic year. Both had been written during the course of the summer, and my visit to documenta had taken place some weeks after the opening of the exhibition on 27 June.

My essay on Francis Bacon was, in effect, the culmination of my project of writing on Delacroix and Giacometti, which had hung fire since the previous year. I invoked both of these artists in order to provide a broader historical context for Bacon’s mode of figuration. My reading of another of Gombrich’s works, in this case Art and Illusion (1960), provided a theoretical point of departure for an examination of Bacon’s “specifically painterly method”. I had become interested in Bacon’s work as a result of my visits to the Beaux Arts Gallery and my early subscription to X. I gave my copy of the issue of X featuring Bacon to Michael Peppiatt, then a Cambridge undergraduate. At the time, Peppiatt was editing an issue of the occasional magazine, Cambridge Opinion, on British contemporary art. He later became the major authority on the life and work of Bacon.16

As I was already living in Paris by the beginning of October, I was unable to see proofs. Working from hand-written copy may explain howlers in the printed text like Delacroix’s “Massacre of Chivs”. The last lines of the article were unaccountably omitted and had to be inserted in ink in my own copy. No precise identification is given for the photographs of the paintings by Bacon, which had been obtained from Marlborough Galleries. In fact, they date from 1964 and show what was clearly intended at the time to be a triptych of Bacon’s friend and fellow painter, Lucien Freud. These three large portraits have subsequently been dispersed. The right-hand painting was presented by Marlborough to the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The left-hand painting, now in the Forbes collection, was shown at Tate Britain in the early months of 2018.

Bacon, however, was also represented by five paintings in the large exhibition, Painting & Sculpture of a Decade 54–64, which was held at the Tate Gallery in April–June 1964. I did not review this exhibition, no doubt partly because of the Cambridge publishing schedules, but also perhaps because I found my visit to be a frustrating experience. Beyond any doubt, this was the richest and most comprehensive British showing of contemporary art to date. Yet my reactions coincided precisely with those of a review I later discovered by Patrick Reyntiens: “twice as many works of art apiece as they should, each work being twice as large as it should be for comfortable viewing and as capriciously lit as any South American baroque church.”17 These works had been selected, at the invitation of the Gulbenkian Foundation, by Alan Bowness (shortly to become Director of the Tate), Lawrence Gowing, and Philip James (Director of Art at the Arts Council). But the introductory “notes” to the catalogue were anonymous and (to me) appeared somewhat alienating: “Abandon the philosophic guides. The idea of expression and the idea of the artist as someone in communication with us through some code that we can decipher are inadequate to the situation.”18

This was not a sentiment that I was inclined to take seriously. But it was the “impression of cluttered riches” generated by the layout of the exhibition that perturbed me most, and provided the greatest possible contrast to the subsequent experience of documenta. I had witnessed a rather hasty exposition of the previous documenta in 1959, since our enterprising school art teacher, Grahame Drew, showed us without comment the vast number of slides that he had taken there. But documenta III was a much more considerable event, consolidating the position of this Hessian city on the fringes of the Western bloc as the foremost showcase for contemporary art in the post-war world. The rationale of the exhibition, carefully explained by its director, the art historian Werner Haftmann, was certainly “more didactic than anarchic.”19 But its success was due, above all, to the resourceful way in which this didactic rationale was underpinned by an inspired utilisation of the city sites.

As my review testifies, the achievement of documenta III was to set new standards for the very concept of an exhibition of modern and contemporary art. In part, this was a matter of financial resources. Reyntiens assessed the budget of the Gulbenkian show at £35,000 whereas documenta III cost “roughly £150,000” by my estimate. But it was also a question of visual realisation. Kassel provided several commodious and traditional spaces: the Museum Fridericianum, which had indeed been at its origin one of the first publicly accessible museums in Europe, and the later Alte Galerie, which was chosen by Haftmann to house an unprecedentedly broad display of modern and contemporary drawings. The Orangerie and the park surrounding it were devoted to the theme of “Painting and Sculpture in Space”, giving unstinted spatial provision to large pictures as well as to major items of sculpture. In short, ideal conditions were provided for close attention to detail, as well for exciting environmental effects. I continued to return to documenta in subsequent years, noting in particular the exhibitions of 1968 and 1972.

  • 69, no. 1238, 17 October 1964: 6. Illustrated is Francis Bacon, <i>Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud</i>, 1964. Courtesy of the estate of Francis Bacon (All rights reserved / DACS 2019).
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    Figure 36.


    Stephen Bann, “Francis Bacon”, Granta, 69, no. 1238, 17 October 1964: 6. Illustrated is Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud, 1964. Courtesy of the estate of Francis Bacon (All rights reserved / DACS 2019).


  • 69, no. 1238, 17 October 1964: 7.
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    Figure 37.


    Stephen Bann, “Francis Bacon”, Granta, 69, no. 1238, 17 October 1964: 7.


  • 69, no. 1238, 17 October 1964: 8.
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    Figure 38.


    Stephen Bann, “Francis Bacon”, Granta, 69, no. 1238, 17 October 1964: 8.


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Stephen Bann, “Francis Bacon”, Granta, 69, no. 1238, 17 October 1964: 6. Illustrated is Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud, 1964. Courtesy of the estate of Francis Bacon (All rights reserved / DACS 2019).

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Stephen Bann, “Francis Bacon”, Granta, 69, no. 1238, 17 October 1964: 7.

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Stephen Bann, “Francis Bacon”, Granta, 69, no. 1238, 17 October 1964: 8.

  • June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964), Vol. 1, Malerei Skulptur: front cover.
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    Figure 39.


    Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964), Vol. 1, Malerei Skulptur: front cover.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964), Vol. 1, Malerei Skulptur: back cover.
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    Figure 40.


    Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964), Vol. 1, Malerei Skulptur: back cover.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964), Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen: front cover.
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    Figure 41.


    Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964), Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen: front cover.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964), Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen: back cover.
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    Figure 42.


    Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964), Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen: back cover.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 410.
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    Figure 43.


    Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 410.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 411.
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    Figure 44.


    Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 411.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 102.
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    Figure 45.


    Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 102.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 103.
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    Figure 46.


    Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 103.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 384.
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    Figure 47.


    Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 384.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 39

Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964), Vol. 1, Malerei Skulptur: front cover.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964), Vol. 1, Malerei Skulptur: back cover.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964), Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen: front cover.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964), Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen: back cover.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 43

Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 410.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 411.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 45

Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 102.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 46

Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 103.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 47

Exhibition catalogue, documenta III, June–October 1964 (Kassel: Hessische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1964) (Vol. 2, Handzeichnungen): 384.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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    Figure 48.


    Stephen Bann, “Documenta III at Kassel”, The Cambridge Review, 10 October 1964, 21.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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    Figure 49.


    Stephen Bann, “Documenta III at Kassel”, The Cambridge Review, 10 October 1964, 22.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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    Figure 50.


    Stephen Bann, “Documenta III at Kassel”, The Cambridge Review, 10 October 1964, 23.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 48

Stephen Bann, “Documenta III at Kassel”, The Cambridge Review, 10 October 1964, 21.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Stephen Bann, “Documenta III at Kassel”, The Cambridge Review, 10 October 1964, 22.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Stephen Bann, “Documenta III at Kassel”, The Cambridge Review, 10 October 1964, 23.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • Tate Gallery, April–June 1964 (London: Shenval Press, 1964): jacket.
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    Figure 51.


    Painting & Sculpture of a Decade 54/64, Tate Gallery, April–June 1964 (London: Shenval Press, 1964): jacket.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • Tate Gallery, April–June 1964 (London: Shenval Press, 1964): 46.
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    Figure 52.


    Exhibition catalogue, Painting & Sculpture of a Decade 54/64, Tate Gallery, April–June 1964 (London: Shenval Press, 1964): 46.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • Tate Gallery, April–June 1964 (London: Shenval Press, 1964): 47.
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    Figure 53.


    Exhibition catalogue, Painting & Sculpture of a Decade 54/64, Tate Gallery, April–June 1964 (London: Shenval Press, 1964): 47.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Painting & Sculpture of a Decade 54/64, Tate Gallery, April–June 1964 (London: Shenval Press, 1964): jacket.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 52

Exhibition catalogue, Painting & Sculpture of a Decade 54/64, Tate Gallery, April–June 1964 (London: Shenval Press, 1964): 46.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Exhibition catalogue, Painting & Sculpture of a Decade 54/64, Tate Gallery, April–June 1964 (London: Shenval Press, 1964): 47.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 55

Stephen Bann, “A Note from Paris”, Grants, 69, no. 1240, 28 November 1964: 15.

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Kinetic Art and Concrete Poetry

My “Note from Paris” in Granta (28 November 1964) was hardly more than a footnote to my earlier essay on Francis Bacon, which had been misprinted without its final sentences in the magazine the month before. But in citing the names of Vasarely and Schöffer in opposition to those of Bacon, Giacometti, and Rivers, I was reflecting a significant shift in my own critical focus which had begun to take place during the summer months. Reg Gadney, the editor of Granta, whose “note on Agam” (the Paris-based Israeli artist) occupied the remainder of the two-page spread, had introduced me to the milieu of Parisian kinetic art over the summer period. In company with Philip Steadman, we had visited Paris and enjoyed the hospitality of Gadney’s friend, Frank Malina, an American rocket scientist who had relocated to the city and was pursuing his own variety of kinetic painting. Our immediate mission that summer was to compose a special issue of Image. This was a new magazine published in London by Kingsland Prospect Press, with production values superior to Granta, for which Steadman was editor and art editor. Its planned focus was on kinetic art and concrete poetry. My own part in this project was, in the first instance, to compile two short articles on artists with South American connections: José María Cruxent, a noted Venezuelan archaeologist who spent part of each year in Paris developing his exquisite light boxes; and Gregorio Vardanega, an Italian-born sculptor in perspex whose artistic career had begun in Argentina before he took up residence in Paris in 1959.

I moved to Paris for a long period of residence in early October to pursue my historical research on Prosper de Barante. But I was also eager to continue furthering my interest in the contemporary area. My listing of appointments for October and November contains (in addition to a note of two tickets for the first Paris performance of the Rolling Stones20) indications of meetings with Malina, Cruxent, and the historian of modern art who had already established himself as a leading critic of the kinetic movement, Frank Popper. There was, however, a second aspect to this new critical agenda. Paris was also home to the elderly poet, Pierre Albert-Birot, the publisher some of Apollinaire’s most famous calligrammes and who was still (as I discovered) at the centre of experimental activity. The special issue of Image, published at the end of November 1964, was billed under the dual title “Kinetic Art: Concrete Poetry”. Mike Weaver, a Cambridge friend who was completing his doctorate on the poetry of William Carlos Williams, was responsible for the second emphasis. He had effectively drawn my attention to the burgeoning international phenomenon of concrete poetry, which (like the kinetic tendency) drew on deep roots in the avant-garde movements of the early twentieth century.

Of particular importance to my critical writing, and my artistic life, at this time was the connection that I began to establish with the Scottish concrete poet, Ian Hamilton Finlay. Mike Weaver had invited me to travel with him and his wife on a visit to Edinburgh to meet Finlay in late August 1964. This meeting resulted in a correspondence which would endure almost to the end of Finlay’s life in 2006.21 Weaver was by this stage well advanced in planning for a Cambridge venue the First International Exhibition of Concrete, Phonetic and Kinetic Poetry (28 November–5 December 1964), whose catalogue formed an insert into the late November Granta. As I was resident in Paris for the autumn months, I was not able to assist in the mounting of the exhibition. However, I contributed an additional essay on concrete poetry to the special issue of Image, which was available by the time of its opening. I must have been dubious about the way in which the Introduction to the exhibition Painting & Sculpture of a Decade, held at Tate Gallery that spring, had dismissed the “idea of expression and the idea of the artist as someone in communication with us through some code.” At any rate, my chosen guide in the interpretation of concrete poetry was indeed Gombrich’s essay on “Expression and Communication” (from Meditations on a Hobby Horse). I employed Gombrich’s analysis (and more particularly the notion of “semantic space” borrowed from the psychologist C.E. Osgood) as a means of exploring the manipulation of typography for semantic purposes that occurred in the poems of Finlay and other concrete practitioners.

The connection that I established with Finlay, and his consistently warm reception of my critical writing, encouraged me to write concrete poems of my own. The Cambridge show provided the first opportunity to display one of these works in public.22 A school friend, David Maclagan, was completing a postgraduate degree in the painting department of the Royal College of Art at the time. He resourcefully accessed the printing facilities of the college, and produced a small edition of screen prints of my ORANGE poem, one of which was duly exhibited in the show. Even when I was a resident in Paris, Finlay did not hesitate to keep me up to date with his own publications. In a letter of 17 November 1964, he professed himself “delighted” that Telegrams from my Windmill, his second compilation of concrete poetry, had arrived safely.

DOI Figure 56

Anonymous lover, anonymous lover, Stephan Bann, Reg Gadney, Frank Popper, Phil Steadman and Citroen in Paris, 1964.
Digital image courtesy of Richard Hardwick.

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Stephen Bann, “Communication and Structure in Concrete Poetry”, Image, November 1964: 8.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Stephen Bann, “Communication and Structure in Concrete Poetry”, Image, November 1964: 9.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Ian Hamilton Finlay, Telegram, 1964, envelope.

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Ian Hamilton Finlay, Telegram, 1964.

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Ian Hamilton Finlay, Telegram, 1964.

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Ian Hamilton Finlay, Telegram, 1964.

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Ian Hamilton Finlay, Telegram, 1964.

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Ian Hamilton Finlay, Telegram, 1964.

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Stephen Bann, ORANGE poster poem, exhibited Cambridge, 28 November–5 December 1964.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): jacket.
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    Figure 66.


    Exhibition catalogue, Jasper Johns, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 1954-1964, Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): jacket.


  • Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plate 13.
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    Figure 67.


    Exhibition catalogue, Jasper Johns, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 1954-1964, Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plate 13.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plate 14.
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    Figure 68.


    Exhibition catalogue, Jasper Johns, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 1954-1964, Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plate 14.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plate 47.
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    Figure 69.


    Exhibition catalogue, Jasper Johns, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 1954-1964, Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plate 47.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

  • Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plate 48.
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    Figure 70.


    Exhibition catalogue, Jasper Johns, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 1954-1964, Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plate 48.


    Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 66

Exhibition catalogue, Jasper Johns, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 1954-1964, Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): jacket.

DOI Figure 67

Exhibition catalogue, Jasper Johns, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 1954-1964, Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plate 13.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Exhibition catalogue, Jasper Johns, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 1954-1964, Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plate 14.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Exhibition catalogue, Jasper Johns, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 1954-1964, Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plate 47.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

DOI Figure 70

Exhibition catalogue, Jasper Johns, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 1954-1964, Whitechapel Gallery, December 1964 (London: Whitechapel Gallery, 1964): plate 48.
Digital image courtesy of Michael Blissett Photography.

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Jasper Johns at Whitechapel

An inscription on the first inside page of my catalogue indicates that I saw the exhibition of Jasper Johns at the Whitechapel Gallery on 12 December 1964. I soon wrote enthusiastically about it to Ian Hamilton Finlay. I had returned from Paris to Cambridge at the beginning of the month, and was to spend Christmas at my parents’ house in Yorkshire. It was over the holiday period that I wrote the first draft of my review of the exhibition in longhand. The revised and typed version was then produced, very probably with the aid of one of the Cambridge typists who specialised in theses and other academic copy. The text was then sent to Alan Ross, Editor of the London Magazine. He had published my essay on the novelist, Robert Pinget, in the issue of October 1964. I must have had some intimation that a review of the Johns show would be welcomed, but it was not published. I returned to Paris in the New Year. The typed version must simply have been filed, until I discovered it by chance in the archive of the London Magazine in the Harry Ransom Library, University of Texas.

I suggest that the review may be worth rescuing from oblivion and publishing in this context for two reasons. Most obviously, it forms a counterpart to my earlier essay on the Rauschenberg exhibition, and extends my thinking about the issues of representation provoked by these two American artists at the time of their first extended showing in Britain. I begin by commenting on the fact that the work of Rauschenberg stands out, even when seen in such crowded circumstances as those of documenta III or Painting & Sculpture of a Decade at Tate Gallery. Johns had indeed been represented by three paintings at documenta III and by five at the Gulbenkian (including a Flag, a Map, and a Target). But I had passed them over without comment in my review of documenta III.

The second reason is more difficult to define, but I had not yet at this point learned to use a typewriter. My texts were handwritten, and incorporated numerous insertions and crossings out. This manuscript is fully legible, but it contains the traces of the odd phrase that has been modified in the process of writing, and of a further revision that has taken place after the text was completed. Several further revisions must have been attempted before the text was ready for the typist. The manuscript therefore reveals, from time to time, what I had decided not to say.

For instance, in the first paragraph I fall back on a well-known analogy to outline the radical difference between Johns and Rauschenberg. The Oxford don, Isaiah Berlin, had published (for the first time in 1953) a celebrated piece which was later much republished, under the title “The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy’s View of History”. This a comparison between Tolstoy (the hedgehog) and his fellow Russian Dostoevsky (the fox). Making a similar comparison enabled me to draw an initial distinction between the two American artists. Yet, I rightly resisted the temptation to make it inappropriately concrete (manuscript: “Johns is the hedgehog, making progress in quiet stages, yet mostly seen rolled into a ball”; typescript: “and consolidating every advance”).

Given that critical judgements necessarily proceed by comparison, I then elucidate what I acknowledge to be Johns’ achievement as a “master of the pictorial surface”. The judgement first of all involves dismissing comparisons with other “adjustments between surface and material”: namely those of Max Ernst and Francis Bacon. It was doubtless my recent stay in France that led me to invoke the name of Jean Fautrier, a painter whose work did not feature at all in documenta III or in the Gulbenkian show, but whose last mistress I met at a dinner party given by Parisian friends. In the draft, I pass rather too quickly over the definition of the “ontologic” quality as suggested by Michel Conil Lacoste, stating simply “it is there because it is there”. In the typescript, I am rather more explicit, using the more careful definition of the term to prepare for the seeming paradox that Johns associates “vegetable fluency of pigment with the introduction of subject matter”.

There is one section of the manuscript where a slight reinforcement of the rhetoric clearly betrays another oblique reference to my own contemporary experience. A propos of Johns’ use of stencilled letters, I suggest in the handwritten text: “If a certain conjunction of signs goes to make up the word ORANGE, then the spectator is likely to transpose it into terms of colour.” This sentence gains a greater immediacy when it concludes: “then the spectator leaps at once to consideration of the colour”. As far as I can see, Johns had confined himself in the Whitechapel show to referencing (and painting in formal rectangles) only the primary colours, RED, YELLOW, and BLUE. But I must have been bearing in mind the very recent manifestation of my ORANGE poster poem.

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    Figure 71.


    Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished manuscript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 1.


    Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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    Figure 72.


    Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished manuscript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 2.


    Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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    Figure 73.


    Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished manuscript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 3.


    Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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    Figure 74.


    Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished manuscript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 4.


    Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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    Figure 75.


    Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished manuscript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 5.


    Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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    Figure 76.


    Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished manuscript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 6.


    Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished manuscript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 1.
Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished manuscript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 2.
Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished manuscript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 3.
Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished manuscript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 4.
Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished manuscript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 5.
Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished manuscript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 6.
Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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    Figure 77.


    Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished typescript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 1.


    Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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    Figure 78.


    Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished typescript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 2.


    Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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    Figure 79.


    Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished typescript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 3.


    Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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    Figure 80.


    Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished typescript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 4.


    Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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    Figure 81.


    Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished typescript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 5.


    Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished typescript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 1.
Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished typescript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 2.
Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished typescript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 3.
Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished typescript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 4.
Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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Stephen Bann, “Jasper Johns”, unpublished typescript, London Magazine archive, December 1964: 5.
Digital image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

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Typography and Exhibition Catalogues

So many of the publications included in this feature are notable for their innovative and expressive uses of typography. I can date my own interest in typography and book design back to my schooldays in the late 1950s. A printing press was discovered in the Museum at Winchester College and my seniors industriously put it to good use in printing a Book of Prayers for Evening services in the Chapel. The book was printed in Eric Gill’s Perpetua typeface, with Romulus Initials. My own achievement at the press was an excessively elaborate personal bookplate. I became more familiar with the mechanics of book production when editing the school’s literary magazine, Ariel, in 1960. Here, there could be no question of influencing the layout or typography to any great degree, since the process was controlled by the printer: “Warren & Son Ltd, General and Commercial Printing and Publishing”.23 An original design for the cover allowed each issue to have a certain degree of visual impact. But, for the most part, visual interest was confined to the display of advertisements that appeared throughout the pages of the magazine, which were supplied in the form of ready-made blocks. For the issue of summer 1960, I managed to acquire full-page adverts from sources that ranged from the Royal Navy to Olivier Fine Virginia Tobacco and Madame Prunier’s Restaurants (London and Paris). Though graphically undistinguished in the main, these adverts enabled the school magazine to cover its costs more effectively than others with which I have been subsequently associated.

The exhibition catalogues reproduced here testify to a general shift in practice, beginning in the 1960s, which was starting to condition the processes of critical writing and publication. Writing a rough draft in manuscript, and perhaps producing or commissioning a type-written script, had been previously the prelude to typesetting undertaken by the printer, and was then followed in due course by the editor or author’s review of the proofs. But in the course of the mid-1960s, a significant change in practice was taking hold. New typefaces, technically known as “neo-grotesque sans-serif”, were beginning to achieve widespread penetration, the most prominent among them being the Swiss designer Adrian Frütiger’s “Univers” font. Conceived as an essentially neutral, visually unencumbered medium of communication, this typeface was originally released in 1957. Its rapid dissemination was partly due to the fact that it facilitated the use of a range of different weights and sizes of lettering. However, another decisive advantage was the fact that it subsequently became available for photo-setting (the so-called “photo-lithographic” process), and thus effectively bypassed the traditional route of text being set by the printer in “hot metal” type.

My selection of publications dating from 1964 (and a little before) illustrates this decisive shift, which transferred a major role to the graphic designer in conditioning the reception of critical texts, and indeed in framing the reproduction of the works of art themselves. A major exhibition catalogue like the Arts Council’s Picasso (held at the Tate Gallery in 1960) had employed sans-serif type sparingly, reversed in white on the front cover for the one-word title, and subsequently used for the titles of works and headings throughout the text. Continuous passages of writing were still set in traditional type, though the lining to the right margin of continuous prose did convey an overtly “modern” approach. By contrast, the great centenary exhibition of Delacroix, held at the Louvre in 1963, had a catalogue whose cover still drew on a curious medley of different typefaces, resolutely centred, and ranging from “Display” capitals to a Gothic “Paris” redolent of the world of Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris!

A clear example of the use of the new Swiss typography to enshrine a total vision comes with the documenta III catalogue of 1964. This vision not only underwrites the utility of the catalogue as an educational document, but also contrives to promote a cultural and historical view of the significance of the exhibition as a whole. Arnold Bode (1900–1977), who had initiated the concept of the “documenta” in the West German city of Kassel, was an architect, painter, and designer as well a curator. Having himself been removed from his employment by the Nazis in the 1930s, he conceived this series of major exhibitions as a means of reconnecting his own country, and Western Europe as a whole, with a modernist tradition which had been rudely interrupted during the Second World War. The two-part catalogue for the 1964 documenta was designed in his own studio, and made use of the range of possibilities opened up by the new typefaces to achieve an exemplary clarity in the design both of general documentation and of continuous prose. The bold red and blue squares dominating the two covers differentiate the two major aspects of the exhibition, while endorsing a generic view of modernism as being clearly identified with geometric abstract art.

The British catalogue that probably comes closest to this total vision is the one which was designed for Painting and Sculpture of a Decade, held at the Tate Gallery under the auspices of the Gulbenkian Foundation in 1964. Credited with the design on the first page of text are Edward Wright (1912–1988), who then headed the Graphic Design department at Chelsea College of Arts, and his younger colleague Robin Fior (1935–2012). Both the design of the cover itself, with its hand-drawn numerals and embossed effect, and the provision of brown, slightly corrugated endpapers, anticipate a highly individual but disciplined approach, which is borne out by the rigorous distribution of text and images. The latter are placed invariably on right-hand pages facing the documentation, which itself ingeniously exploits the varying weights of the sans-serif type.

The Gulbenkian catalogue was produced by Shenval Press, a small printer mainly located in Harlow, Hertfordshire, which was advertising itself at the time as “specializing in typographic design and fine colour reproduction”.24 Another regional printer, Tillotsons of Bolton, Lancashire, had already produced in 1963 what must surely have been the most sophisticated catalogue to date for any one-man exhibition at a London commercial gallery. Gordon House (1932–2004) was an artist and member of the London “Situation Group”, as well as working as a graphic designer. His design for the Kitaj one-man exhibition, Pictures with Commentary, shown at Marlborough Fine Art in February 1963, is an impeccable exercise in deploying the new typography, which does not compete for attention with the excellent photographic illustrations of Kitaj’s work (themselves produced from blocks made by Engravers Guild Limited).

It is however noteworthy that the four exhibition catalogues produced for shows at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1964 do not fit the prescription of having a named designer, who follows the protocols of the new typography. To judge from the byline that occurs only the last of the series (Jasper Johns), Bryan Robertson chose to employ the London-based printer, Foss & Cross Ltd, which had a long record of printing official posters and leaflets, such as the guide to the South Bank Exhibition of 1951. These Whitechapel catalogues remain traditional in their typography, but their individuality is expressed in the other features that they hold in common. For one thing, they all adopt an identical small square format, with a striking image on the cover, whether of a specific work (in colour for Rauschenberg and Johns) or of a featured artist portrayed by a professional photographer (Bert Stern for Kline, Lord Snowdon for Bridget Riley). Apart from the text on the slender spines, no exhibition title or artist’s name appears on the outside of the catalogues. But Robertson was doubtlessly right in thinking that the Whitechapel “brand” would be highly recognisable in this distinctive format.

The broader field of art book design was also being influenced during this period by the intervention of major graphic artists. The Peregrine paperback edition of Nikolaus Pevsner’s The Englishness of English Art that appeared in 1964 contained no significant revisions—as far as the visual arts were concerned—to the original text published in 1956. But the new edition benefited from a striking collage-style cover, including bold sans-serif titles, which was designed by Herbert Spencer (1924–2002). Editor of the magazine, Typografica, from 1949 onwards, Spencer had been foremost in facilitating the discussion, and so promoting the use, of the new typography in Britain. In Typografica 8 (1963), he was also responsible for publishing the first article to appear in Britain on the practice of concrete poetry (dom sylvester houédard’s “Concrete Poetry and Ian Hamilton Finlay”).25 But the enduring legacy of book design in Britain over this period is also demonstrated by the wholly different approach of the German-born designer, Hans Tisdall (1910–1997), who progressed from textile art to designing book jackets for the publisher, Jonathan Cape. His striking cover for Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast (1964) is a demonstration of his distinctive “brushstroke style” of hand-drawn lettering. As late as 2001, the epigrapher and letter designer, Michael Harvey, who acted as one of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s most successful collaborators for almost half a century, succeeded in adapting the “Tisdall script” to create a new typeface.