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On this day in April...

Important events from The Redfern Gallery archives
April 2, 2020

This new, regular feature will provide a summary of important historical events that relate to the Redfern and its artists.


4 April 1957   Metavisual Tachiste Abstract opens at the Redfern. This seminal show revealed the influence of French tachism and American Abstract Expressionism on thirty British painters, including Sandra Blow, Alan Davie and Peter Lanyon. The memorable title was coined by Patrick Heron's wife, Delia. A number of important paintings are shown here for the first time, including Ayres' Distillation, one of her first loosely painted, tachiste canvases that she made specifically for Metavisual ..., and which was selected for the Paris Bienale a year later. Also on display is Hilton's January 1956, one of the first paintings he made while in St Ives, and purchased by the Tate in 1958. Patrick Heron shows the first of his 'Stripe Paintings', while Terry Frost unveils a new series wherein he allows tight lines of paint to dribble down the canvas in vertical lines. The line-up also accommodates several Redfern artists, such as Paul Feiler, Adrian Heath, Rodrigo Moynihan, Victor Pasmore and Bryan Wynter, as well as newcomers, like Frank Avray Wilson, who is later in the year given his own Redfern show. 

8 April 1987   Margaret Mellis retrospective begins at the Redfern. Her friend Patrick Heron writes the foreword for the exhibition catalogue. Recent driftwood reliefs are sold to the Arts Council as well as the Tate.
11 April 1981   First day of the UK touring exhibition of the Brotherhood of Ruralists, starting at the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol. Among the works on display is The Badminton Game, which is later purchased by the Tate. Completed in 1972, this remains one of David Inshaw's most popular paintings. Having been on view for many years at Tate Britain, it is currently on loan to the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

12 April 1940   The Montague Shearman Collection of French and English Paintings is unveiled at the Redfern. A judge, athlete and avid collector of avant-garde art, Shearman is thought to have been the first Englishman to own a picture by Matisse, when he purchased The Inattentive Reader, in 1919. This, as well as other important oils by Pierre Bonnard, Alfred Sisley, Maurice Utrillo and Edouard Vuillard are among the exhibits bequeathed by Shearman to the Tate, which also purchases a watercolour by John Nash.  

16 April 1951   William Gear becomes the subject of public outrage, when Arts Council judges award Autumn Landscape a £500 prize, as part of the Festival of Britain exhibition. The Daily Mail runs the story as front-page news, and a large reproduction appears in the Daily Telegraph. The press and public (as well as artists, including Laura Knight) object to the abstract nature of the painting, as well as the sum of government money it received. The letter-pages of the newspapers are filled for the next month with angry responses, and the painting is even discussed in Parliament, on 3 May. It provokes such an outcry that Autumn Landscape is the only picture to have won a prize at the Festival of Britain that has not entered a public collection by the end of the year.
17 April 1983   The final day of Francis Davison's retrospective at the Hayward Gallery. A teenage Damien Hirst visited the show, and was "blown away" by the collages. Soon after, he befriended Davison's widow Margaret Mellis, who acts a mentor to the young artist during the 1980s.
28 April 1978   Patrick Procktor is included in A Treasury of Modern Drawing: The Joan and Lester Avnet Collection, which opens at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. His watercolour of Cecil Beaton, first shown at the Redfern in 1969, is part of the exhibition. The Avnets amassed a superb collection of twentieth-century drawings, including Braque, Chagall, Matisse, Picasso and Schiele, and Procktor was one of a small number of contemporary British artists in their collection.
30 April 1942   First solo show for Eileen Agar at the Redfern Gallery. The exhibition is documented by her friend Lee Miller, with the resulting photographs published in British Vogue