Patrick Caulfield, the quiet revolution

With over 30 artworks, Tate Britain presents a comprehensive survey of Patrick Caulfield’s art until September 1st. 

In the early 1960’s, Patrick Caulfield (19362005) studied at the Royal Academy of Arts alongside David Hockney and Allen Jones. Since then, he has been known for his vibrant paintings that were defying current trends.

For instance, he rejected gestural brushstrokes. Has he been influenced by his early work in a commercial design studio?

In 1964, Caulfield took part in the exhibition the New Generation at the Whitechapel Gallery. Thereafter, he was associated with Pop Art. He has been rejecting this affiliation his whole life. Caulfield depicted himself as a formal artist and cited Fernand Léger, Georges Braques and Juan Gris as his influences. A light-hearted homage to Gris is presented in the first room of the exhibition.

Patrick Caulfield, 
Portrait of Juan Gris 1963 Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Wilson Gift through The Art Fund, 2006)  
© The estate of Patrick Caulfield.  All Rights Reserved, DACS 2013

Patrick Caulfield, 
Portrait of Juan Gris 1963
Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Wilson Gift through The Art Fund, 2006)

© The estate of Patrick Caulfield. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2013

There is a plethora of reference to mass culture and mundane objects in Caulfield’s works. How difficult it is not to think about Pop Art! It spontaneously comes to mind especially in front of Pottery, an accumulation of vividly colorful pots. 

Patrick Caulfield, Pottery 1969, Oil on canvas, support: 2134 x 1524 mm Presented by Mrs H.K. Morton through the Contemporary Art Society 1969© The estate of Patrick Caulfield

Patrick Caulfield, Pottery 1969, Oil on canvas, support: 2134 x 1524 mm
Presented by Mrs H.K. Morton through the Contemporary Art Society 1969© The estate of Patrick Caulfield

A difference could be drawn. Where Pop Art often points at the kitsch in a given culture, there seems to be a persistent sense of attachment to objects and places in Caulfied’s works.

 A record player and its speakers make you wonder. What was he listening at the time? Pink Floyd? Jimmy Hendrix? Probably David Bowie, who has lent a work from his collection to the museum.

Patrick Caulfield, Foyer, 1973 Collection David Bowie © The estate of Patrick Caulfield.  All Rights Reserved, DACS 2013

Patrick Caulfield, Foyer, 1973
Collection David Bowie
© The estate of Patrick Caulfield. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2013

In After Lunch, the popular culture seems erased, neutralized. The eyes are drawn to the photorealist image. Unlike the seemingly bored waiter, the viewer wants to know more about this picturesque image. It is a depiction of the Chillon Castle located on the banks of Lake Geneva. This castle has been depicted repeatedly by Gustave Courbet, the Realist and the Rebel.

Patrick Caulfield, After Lunch 1975 Acrylic on canvas, support: 2489 x 2134 mm Purchased 1976 The estate of Patrick Caulfield

Patrick Caulfield, After Lunch 1975
Acrylic on canvas, support: 2489 x 2134 mm
Purchased 1976 The estate of Patrick Caulfield

Like in this painting and with his technique Patrick Caulfield seems to have undertaken a peaceful revolution. The ordinary made extraordinary seems to be the thread of his work that influenced in turn artists like Gary Hume and maybe more clearly Julian Opie.


Until September 1st, 2013 | www.tate.org.uk | Tickets give access to Gary Hume

Text by Reine Okuliar

Images www.tate.org.uk

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