Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Research Point: Patrick Caulfield

Page 36-39: Sketchbook 1

Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005)

Looking at the images found on an Internet search of Patrick Caulfield, the main impression is of flat colour and bold outlines. Objects are reduced to simple shapes and often have very thick black outlines for example Coloured Still Life 1967. There is no blended shading or visible brush strokes. In some of the screen prints, this simplification is taken further with only one colour used in addition to black and white. Objects which are illuminated are represented by flat white shapes surrounded by black negative shapes.

Many of Caulfield's works can be viewed Here : on the Tate website. We were asked to look at Caulfied's use of positive and negative shapes particularly in his 'white ware' screenprints. Scrolling through the images by date several of these images appear dated 1990 for example Large White Jug 1990.  These are the very simplified images described above. The positive shapes represented by flat white shapes surrounded by large negative shapes in black often with one other colour. The negative shapes are as integral to the overall design as the positive shapes. the positive shapes do not dominate as they too are very simplified.

Patrick Caulfield was an English painter and print maker. He started his formal artistic training at Chelsea School of art in 1956. He then went on to the Royal College of Art in London from 1960-63. There he was in the year below the artists recognised as the initiators of the pop art movement in the UK (namely David Hockney, Allen Jones and R B Kitaj). (1). He exhibited alongside these artists in the 1964 'New Generation' exhibition and is therefore often included as a pop artist. He, however, preferred to call himself a 'formal artist'. (2)

In fact, the subjects he chose were different to those used by American pop artists. He didn't paint items of popular culture such as advertisements, packaging or celebrities. Instead he painted everyday subjects such as still lives and interiors- the opposite of the glamorous content of pop art. However, there is a similarity in the way he treats his subjects with pop art. Caulfield created ambiguity by treating these subjects of traditional fine art in a highly unrealistic and stylised way. One of pop art's aims was to create ambiguity . To do this it made use of the unreality of images generated for advertising. The pop artists had a preoccupation with surface and style as opposed to authentic experience and this can also be seen in Cauldfield's approach. (3)

Cauldfield was inspired by Delacroix and particularly admired the cubist painter Juan Gris. He also liked the formal style of Magritte. Another influence was the artwork on Herve's 'Tintin' comics.(4)

In the early 1960s his work was characterised by objects painted with flat paint application and bold outlines. Later he shifted his attention to architectural elements such as interiors and flock wallpaper. 1950's interior designs was an influence.

In the 1970's his work began to include very detailed sections painted in a highly realistic (photorealistic) way. Two examples of this are After Lunch and Autumn Fashion (click on name to access image). This approach served to create further ambiguity by placing these highly realistic objects (such as the two realistic -looking oysters in autumn fashion) in a highly stylised and artificial appearing environment. This was a comment about the lack of distinction between artificial and authentic experience in the modern world. (5)

Caulfield also liked to blur the distinction between 'high art' and decorative painting. He was of the opinion that the most celebrated art always has a decorative purpose (5). He was particularly impressed by the murals at the Knossos in Crete in this context. He did not believe that decorative art should be of a lower status than painting as a high art from. To challenge this he used cheap materials such as hardboard and enamel paints in the production of his work instead of canvas and oil paints.

(1) Caulfield, Patrick - Biography. Marco Livingstone. Grove Art Online via Oxford Art Online
(2) William Feaver: Patrick Caulfield - Obituary. Guardian (Oct 2005)
(3) British Art since 1900. Frances Spalding. World of Art Books (1987)
(4) 50 British Artists You Should Know. Lucinda Hawksley (2011) Prestel
(5) Walker Gallery Website. (

No comments:

Post a Comment