Victor Pasmore was arguably the most influential abstract artist in Britain. He pioneered the development of abstract art in Britain in the 1940’s and 1950’s and advocated that art need not make reference to anything outside of itself, that great art, in fact, needed independence from political aims. Victor Pasmore was born 3rd December 1908 in Surrey.
He worked at County Hall, London, but between 1927-37 he attended evening classes under A.S.Hartrick at the Central School.
He began his career as a representational painter of landscapes, still life, and figures. In 1940, he married the painter Wendy Blood who became the subject of many of his paintings.
Pasmore opened a teaching studio with Claude Rogers in Fitzroy Street in 1937. Later, in the same year, this moved to become the Euston Road School with William Coldstream and Graham Bell.
Under their direction and in association with Augustus John, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Paul Nash, the private art school quickly commanded a very high reputation. The studio helped to revive interest in naturalism, following the example of the Impressionists. Later, between 1947-8 it turned to non-representational painting and then on to constructions. Pasmore had always read widely in art history and theory, however, towards the end of the 1940’s he began to read Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Jean Arp, and to transpose his theoretical understanding of abstract art into experimentation. Herbert Read described Victor Pasmore’s move to abstract art as “the most revolutionary event in post-war British art”. Victor Pasmore and Friends at The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle. 1956
Pasmore often likened his work to music. In 1961, he told The Times that he made the comparison because of music’s “objectivity”. This became “the fundamental basis” of his leap into Abstraction, “I felt the picture has to be an independent object in its own right, not a representation of another object”. As well as painting abstract shapes Pasmore began to make reliefs like contemporary sculptors such as Reg Butler and Philip King. He wanted to create an effect by invading the viewer’s space. The pieces leant out to touch the viewer. In an article for The Sunday Times, Pasmore wrote “whereas in representational art the spectator is confined to a point which is always at a distance from the object, in abstract form he must handle, feel, move around and get into the work if he is to apprehend fully the intentions of the artist”. In 1966 Victor Pasmore bought a house and studio in Malta where he painted and worked on prints. In this environment he developed a rich abstract language of line and colour, referencing natural and organic forms and using a variety of marks from the stippled to the sprayed. He stayed in Malta, working right up until his death in 1998. At the time of his death he was a Royal Academician, a CBE, and a Companion of Honour. Victor Pasmore has had retrospective exhibitions at the I.C.A. (1954), the Venice Biennale (1960), and in Belgrade, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Scandinavia, amongst other world cities.
He was Head of the Painting Department of Durham University from 1954 and the architectural designer for the new town of Peterlee in County Durham, from 1956. Pasmore was a trustee of the Tate Gallery from 1963. His work can be found in many Public Collections around the world including, Tate Britain, Royal Academy of Arts (London), Museum of Modern Art (New York), The British Council, The Ashmolean (Oxford), Art Gallery of South Australia (Adelaide) and Yale Center for British Art
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