Graham Sutherland

EXHIBITION 11.03.1967 – 07.05.1967

A few years after its exhibition of works by English sculptor Henry Moore, Haus der Kunst again paid tribute to a contemporary artist from England, this time to the painter Graham Sutherland (1903–1980). Trained at Goldsmiths College of Art in London and following an initial focus on graphic art and book illustration, Sutherland began concentrating on Surrealistic painting in 1935. His success was confirmed by the presentation of his work at the Venice Biennale in 1952 and by his participation in the 1955, 1959, and 1964 Documenta exhibitions. Organized by the English art critic Douglas Cooper for museums in Munich, The Hague, Berlin, and Cologne, Sutherland's 1967 retrospective, including 174 objects, offered the broadest overview of his painted oeuvre that had been on view in Germany until then.

Sutherland's painting lives from its inspiration by nature. The observation of organic forms and their transformations, which were already explored by artists such as Paul Klee and Max Ernst, served as the starting point for a free distortion of the phenomena (cat. no. 5, "Gorse on Cliff", 1939). This increased to a fantastic and abstract vocabulary following Sutherland's participation in the World War II as a war artist. His images of growing plants and monstrous animals (cat. no. 22, "Cricket", 1948) trigger strong emotions, including delight in the beauty of nature and awed wonder at its ability to change, as well as fear of aging and decay, terror in the face of the ravages of time and the sense of threat from the forces of nature. According to Douglas Cooper, Graham Sutherland – with his interest in nature – stood in the wake of the English Romantics and his modern interpretation of material made him an exceptional figure among European artists.

The horrors of war and the experience of the fragility of human existence led the artist, who had converted to Catholicism at a young age, to employ religious subject matter in his work. The widely varied theme of "thorns" ("Thorn Trees", 1947) represents existential pain that culminates in Christ's "Crucifixion" (1947). His paintings from the 1950s and 1960s reveal the influence of Francis Bacon, but, unlike Bacon, Sutherland combined this suffering of the humiliated creature with the hope of spiritual salvation ("The Prisoner", 1963/64). The artist thus turned to the portrait, fascinated by the expression of character and life struggle, which he captured in his haunting portraits of personalities like Konrad Adenauer (1965).

The 200-page softbound catalogue contains 11 color and 150 black-and-white illustrations. The cover is illustrated with a color image of "The Bow" (1962). The foreword by Douglas Cooper is complemented by a biography, list of exhibitions, and bibliography. The list of the works contains 174 entries, divided into "paintings" (91), "watercolors, gouaches and drawings", "lithographs and books," and "sculptures and carpets."

The exhibition later traveled to the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, Haus am Waldsee in Berlin, and the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne.

Graham Sutherland, Man Bending Over, 1965, private collection © Bridgeman Images
Graham Sutherland, Man Bending Over, 1965, private collection © Bridgeman Images
Graham Sutherland, Vine Pergola, 1952, private collection © Bridgeman Images, photo Agnew's, London
Graham Sutherland, Vine Pergola, 1952, private collection © Bridgeman Images, photo Agnew's, London

Stretch your view

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