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Feature: Exhibition - Mystery of Appearance at Haunch of Venison

Published: 8 December, 2011
by JOHN EVANS

It doesn’t look like a painting of 60 years ago”, suggests Catherine Lampert.

In fact, Francis Bacon’s Pope, on loan for the new show she has brought together at Haunch of Venison, was first seen at a solo exhibition in the nearby Hanover Gallery all those years ago – to the week – in December 1951.

Lampert’s “Mystery” show is a selection of 40 works by 10 of the most feted post-war artists, all of whom she knew: Michael Andrews (1928-1995), Frank Auerbach (b1931), Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005), William Coldstream (1908-1987), Lucian Freud (1922-2011), Richard Hamilton (1922-2011), David Hockney (b1937), Leon Kossoff (b1926) and Euan Uglow (1932-2000).

It looks at their motives, relationships, their art and times and desire to capture what Bacon called “the mystery of appearance within the mystery of making.”

Together they “revived portrait and landscape painting”.

Lampert, who was director of the Whitechapel Gallery from 1988-2001, has sought out works “that are not over-familiar”.

By which she means real gems.

There’s a rarely seen work by Euan Uglow, Nude, Lady C, of 1960, for example.

And there are two of the Primrose Hill paintings, from the early 1960s and early 1970s, by Camden Town’s own Auerbach.

Lampert, who herself has featured in some of his work, recalls that when he came to London in 1947 he had said the half-destroyed capital was “rather sexy”.

She thinks the artists had found that time “strangely very liberating” and this helped them “to engage with… living matter”.

Auerbach’s friend, Kossoff, who celebrates his 85th birthday this week, is also well represented with a striking 1972 self-portrait, a nude, one of his Willesden Junction oils, A Woman Bathing (Study After Rembrandt) and more.

The local connections abound and in an accompanying catalogue the curator examines the artists’ friendships, rivalries and interactions – whether as subjects, neighbours, fellow students, pupils or teachers – at the Slade, at the Royal College and beyond.

The third surviving member of this grouping is Hockney.

Here we can see his 1962 Man in a Museum (Or You’re In The Wrong Movie) and other works. He’s “always ready to engage with an audience, and he makes terrific images,” says Lampert.

Among Freud’s work we have his Portrait of a Woman (Portrait of Lady Ann Tree) from c1950, a rare nude, Girl on a Turkish Sofa from 1966, and a fine 1951 study of Bacon.

• Mystery of Appearance: Conversations between ten British post-war painters is at Haunch of Venison, 103 New Bond Street, W1 until February 18. www.haunchofvenison.com

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