This chronological display from the Tate Collection charts a century of British art. Substantially revitalized with new works and different areas of emphasis for the year 2001, the display presents key masterpieces alongside lesser-known works and new acquisitions to create a full and varied story. Acting as a semi-permanent collection display, Modern British Art is rich in ideas and issues to be discovered by general visitors and students alike. Organized by theme and in a loose chronology, the display enables visitors to witness the common ideas held by artists throughout the century.
Modern British Art begins with Free Time, a section exploring the relationship between art and leisure before the First World War. For many young artists, modern life with its cafes, dancing, music halls and spectator sports, suited the advanced techniques which they had just learnt from their contemporaries in Paris. Important works by Duncan Grant, David Bomberg and Walter Richard Sickert are displayed together to expose the vigor and variety of British painting and sculpture at this time.
After the shock of the war, all goes quiet in British art. Innocence and Experience explores the urge amongst artists during the 1920s to retreat to the countryside, to return to traditional subjects such as stilllife and to adopt a faux-naif style. Key works by Frances Hodgkins, self-taught artist Alfred Wallis, and Ben and Winifred Nicholson reveal the tentative nature of British art during this uncertain period.
Following this, Dreams and Visions examines the ways in which Surrealism affected British art during the 1930s. Works by artists such as Roland Penrose, Eileen Agar, Edward Wadsworth and Paul Nash are hung alongside each other in this room to reveal a range of ways in which the irrational and the fantastical revitalized British art.
The next theme explores Post-war Britain's atmosphere of regeneration and renewal. Regeneration reveals the many ways in which artists responded to this environment. The so-called Kitchen Sink School of artists made gestural paintings depicting scenes of working class labor. Some artists, preferring to work with rather than comment upon society, chose to work on commissions for new public squares or buildings. Others such as Anthony Caro, used the techniques and materials of industry to create a new approach to sculpture.
The 1960s witnessed a more liberated society, full of dynamic new fashion, pop music and cinema, and partly fuelled by a love of American popular culture. This hedonism in Britain influenced a number of young artists at the time who came to be known as Pop artists. Examples of their brightly colored and exuberant works are here displayed in Swinging Sixties. Well known favorites by David Hockney and Peter Blake are shown alongside lesser-known works such as a new acquisition by Pauline Boty.
Moving along, Thinking of England? charts the rise in conceptual and issue-based work in England during the 19705 and 19805. Many artists during this period made work, which critically examined the very structures of British society in the hope of bringing about positive change. Rita Donagh's work explores the tensions in Northern Ireland, whereas Gilbert & George examine the British class structure with a large dose of irony. This section also includes 19805 New British Sculpture by David Mach and Bill Woodrow, often made from urban scraps to comment on the wastefulness of society.
Bringing the display to a close, Flesh and Blood examines the importance of the human form, either figured or suggested, in British art of the 19905. The work of John Coplans and Helen Chadwick is here included alongside a younger generation of artists, all of whom have placed the human figure centrally within their work.
As an adjunct to the display, the Focus Room enables visitors to explore key moments of British art in greater depth by presenting two small monographic or group shows each year. The Focus Room program commences on 10 February with paintings by Vanessa Bell, followed in July with a display of Tate's holdings of work by Alfred Wallis.