Subtle and wide-ranging in its account, this study explores the impact of Australian art in Britain in the two decades following the end of World War II and preceding the 'Swinging Sixties'. In a transitional period of decolonization in Britain, Australian painting was briefly seized upon as a dynamic and reinvigorating force in contemporary art, and a group of Australian artists settled in London where they held centre stage with group and solo exhibitions in the capital's most prestigious galleries. The book traces the key influences of Sir Kenneth Clark, Bernard Smith and Bryan Robertson in their various (and varying) roles as patrons, ideologues, and entrepreneurs for Australian art, as well as the self-definition and interaction of the artists themselves. Simon Pierse interweaves multiple issues of the period into a cohesive historical narrative, including the mechanics of the British art world, the limited and frustrating cultural scene of 1950s Australia, and the conservative influence of Australian government bodies. Publishing for the first time archival material, letters, and photographs previously unavailable to scholars either in Britain or Australia, this book demonstrates how the work of expatriate Australian artists living in London constructed a distinct vision of Australian identity for a foreign market.
Winner, author's grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
'The book succeeds in providing a broad overview of Australian artists in London based upon extensive and detailed archival research… this lavishly produced publication highlights the important contribution that London patrons, galleries, and exhibitions made to the international success of Australian artists during this period.' Australian Book Review
'Pierse’s book is a welcome addition to a sparse literature… Pierse’s highly readable account adeptly charts the assimilation of painters formerly considered extremely exotic…' Reviews in Australian Studies
'A great deal is covered in this extremely well-documented and superbly illustrated book, with insights into the lives and careers of Australian artists in Britain.' Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art
'Simon Pierse's book is a welcome addition to Australian art history… it is a valuable resource, essential for anyone interested in the period of in the development of an Australian school of painting…' Art & Australia
Contents: Foreword; Sir Kenneth Clark: deus ex machina of Australian art; A miserable climate; Australian artists in London, c.1930-50; Australian art and artists in the new Elizabethan age; Bryan Robertson, director of the Whitechapel Gallery; Antipodeans, abstractionists and the quest for an exhibition in London; Recent Australian Painting at the Whitechapel gallery; A horse designed by a committee: Australian Painting - Colonial - Impressionist - Contemporary; Flag of convenience: Australian art and the Commonwealth; Australian artists in early 1960s London; Australian painting and Sculpture in Europe Today; Comings and goings in the mid-1960s; Conclusion; Appendix; Select bibliography; Index.