Victor Pasmore 1908 - 98
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Victor Pasmore 1908 - 98
1. Untitled, Victor Pasmore. Screen print, ink on paper. Maclaurin Art Collection (AYRAG 1487). Photograph ©Mike Bailey.
2. The British artist Victor Pasmore at work, (The 1951 Festival of Britain in pictures). Original by Getty Images
3. Victor Pasmore with some of his Newcastle Students ca 1955 School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne (formerly part of King’s College, Durham University).
4. The Quiet River: The Thames at Chiswick, 1943-4
Victor Pasmore (1908 - 98).
Oil paint on canvas, 762 x 1016 mm Tate Gallery, London.
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1958.
Victor Pasmore was one of the leading figures in the Basic Design movement in British art
education which was to have such a radical impact during the post-war period of the fifties and sixties.
The Basic Design
movement represented a very loose dissemination of educational ideas and principles inspired by the Bauhaus and
European constructivism which challenged the prevailing Impressionist realism, propagated by the Euston Road painters,
who dominated the teaching of many of the British art schools.
The new movement emanated from a number of artists
who taught at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, but as a teaching philosophy it crystallised in the North of
England, where it was led by Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton in Newcastle-on-Tyne and Harry Thubron and Tom
Hudson in Leeds. Many other British artists, such as Terry Frost, Alan Davie, Hubert Dalwood, Maurice de Sausmarez,
and William Turnbull were involved, and the movement reflects something of the bewildering diversity and creative
preoccupations of the artists concerned. Essentially, it was in tune with the radical spirit of European and American
Pasmore had been a leading member of the Euston Road school of painting which had been established in
1937, promoting an objective form of Impressionist realism, which in many ways expressed a continuity of British
realism stemming from Sickert and the Camden Town school of painters to the Impressionism of Degas. By 1945
Pasmore had established a preeminent position in British art as a lyrical Impressionist painter whose views of the Thames
at Hammersmith and Chiswick were seen within the time-honoured tradition of Whistler and Turner.
By the late 1940s,
however, Pasmore's art had undergone a radical transition, and he was to pursue the cause of abstract art with an
uncompromising missionary zeal, which was to stimulate a number of like-minded artists who formed a nucleus in a new
wave of British abstraction and constructivism.
It was while Pasmore was consorting with such contemporaries as
Kenneth and Mary Martin, Anthony Hill, Adrian Heath and Terry Frost that Pasmore began to evolve a new pedagogy appropriate
for a new art. Like Charles Biederman, Pasmore had an evolutionary belief in art and he saw abstraction as the only
future direction in which all the visual arts could find a new unity. He believed that British art education was following
practices which were essentially rooted in the nineteenth century and that the time was ripe for radical change.
Although he was never resident in St Ives, Pasmore was closely associated with, and influential on, many of the key artists of the St Ives School. For this reason, and his profound influence on the teaching and practice of Contemporary Art outwith Scotland, it wa entirely appropriate that he should be represented in the Maclaurin Art Collection alongside such key figures as Heron and Frost.
[Text based on The Pedagogy of Victor Pasmore
and Richard Hamilton by
Richard Yeomans, University of Warwick, The Guardian and personal recollections.]
Work identified and championed by Mike Bailey.
Edwin John Victor Pasmore is known as an abstract artist, producing paintings, collages and constructions; previously a representational painter of landscapes, still life and figures. His work can be found in many private and public collections around the world including Tate Britain; the Royal Academy of Arts, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The British Council; the Yale Center for British Art and numerous regional British galleries.
Born in 1908 at Chelsham, Surrey, Pasmore studied at Summer Fields School in Oxford and Harrow, but with the death of his father in 1927 he was forced to take an administrative job at County Hall, London (1927–37). Whilst attending evening classes at the Central School under A.S. Hartrick, he first exhibited with the London Group from 1930 and became a member of the London Artists' Association in 1932. His his first one-man exhibition with the Association 1933, followed by a selection of representational pictures with the ‘Objective Abstractions’ group at the Zwemmer Gallery 1934.
Pasmore opened a teaching studio with Claude Rogers in Fitzroy Street 1937; later the same year this moved to become the Euston Road School with William Coldstream and Graham Bell; it helped to revive an interest in naturalism under the example of the Impressionists 1937–9.
Characteristic of his work at this time and in the early 1940s are some splendid female nudes and lyrically sensitive Thames-side landscapes that have been likened to those of Whistler.
In the Second World War, Pasmore was a conscientious objector. Having been refused recognition by his Local Tribunal, he was called up for military service in 1942. He refused orders and was court martialled and sentenced to 123 days imprisonment. The sentence qualified him to go to the Appellate Tribunal in Edinburgh, which allowed him unconditional exemption from military service.
Camberwell School of Art where one of his students was Terry Frost whom he advised not to bother with the School's formal teaching and to instead study the works in the National Gallery.
Pasmore saw an exhibition of work by Pablo Picasso in 1947 which inspired his move from figurative to abstract art, a change that grew from his studies of the work of Kandinsky, Mondrian, Arp and the other pioneers of abstract art. He became a pioneering figure of the revival of interest in Constructivism in Britain following the War.
In 1950, he was commissioned to design an abstract mural for a bus depot in Kingston upon Thames and the following year Pasmore contributed a mural to the Festival of Britain that promoted a number of the British Constructivists.
Later in the 1950's he was Head of the Painting Department of Durham University at Newcastle and contributed architectural designs for the new town of Peterlee, County Durham. to the exhibition "This Is Tomorrow" in collaboration with Ernő Goldfinger and Helen Phillips. Pasmore was commissioned to make a mural for the new Newcastle Civic Centre.
Pasmore's interest in the synthesis of art and architecture was given free hand when he was appointed Consulting Director of Architectural Design for Peterlee development corporation in 1955. Hiss choices in this area proved controversial; the centrepiece of the town design became an abstract public art structure of his design, the Apollo Pavilion. The structure became the focus for local criticism over the failures of the Development Corporation but Pasmore remained a defender of his work, returning to the town to face critics of the Pavilion at a public meeting in 1982.
As well as paintings he made abstract reliefs, partly under the influence of Ben Nicholson. His earlier reliefs had a hand-made quality but later, in using transparent perspex, he gave them the impersonal precision and finish of machine products.
Pasmore was an influential teacher, notably at King's College, Newcastle upon Tyne, where the ‘basic design’ course he taught (based on Bauhaus ideas) spread to many British art schools.
Pasmore's abstract works were featured in Retrospective exhibitions at the I.C.A. 1954, Cambridge (Arts Council Gallery) 1955, the Venice Biennale 1960, Belgrade, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Scandinavia 1961. He was a trustee of the Tate Gallery from 1963.
In 1966 he moved to Malta where he acquired a house and studio. He died in Gudja, Malt in 1998, aged 89.
[Text based on a Tate Gallery Biography, catalogue introduction for The Marlborough Gallery, London, 1969 and other published sources.]