British Constructivism - The Catherine Petitgas Collection

Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
Simon Martin, Catherine Petitgas, Laurent Delaye (curator), 2017
British Constructivism - The Catherine Petitgas Collection: Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
Publisher: Pallant House Gallery
Dimensions: 24 x 21 cm
Pages: 54
ISBN: 9781869827885
£ 12.00

The works in this exhibition have been selected from the collection of Catherine Petitgas, an art historian, major collector and a patron of the arts in Britain. Since 2012, Catherine Petitgas has been adding British constructivist and concrete works to an already significant contemporary collection of South American art, which now includes works by Norman Dilworth, John Ernest, Anthony Hill, Peter Lowe, Kenneth Martin, Mary Martin, Victor Pasmore, Jeffrey Steele and Gillian Wise.


The British Constructivists were an unofficial group of abstract artists with shared interests who were inspired in part by the ideals of Russian Constructivism. In 1951 British artist Kenneth Martin published an article entitled ‘Abstract Art’ in the publication Broadsheet No. 1: Devoted to Abstract Art in which he described the work of this emerging circle of abstract artists. He characterised the new constructed work as an ‘object which is real and not illusional in that it sets out to represent no object outside [itself], but to contain within itself the force of its own nature.’


During the 1950s, the British Constructivists organised a series of exhibitions. These included Abstract Paintings, Sculptures, Mobiles, at the A.I.A Gallery, London in 1951 and during the following year three weekend exhibitions held at 22 Fitzroy Street; the London studio of artist Adrian Heath. Unframed paintings, reliefs, collages, sculptures and mobiles were placed at different heights so that the space of the whole studio was animated. This environmental approach to the installation and their shared belief that their art was closely allied to the forms and materials of modern architecture was central to their contribution to the seminal exhibition This is Tomorrow held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London in 1956.


In the late 1950s and 1960s, they continued to exhibit their work and established the group’s central position within the development of the British avant-garde. By 1960, a new generation of artists including Peter Lowe, Gillian Wise, Norman Dilworth and Jeffrey Steele joined and became closely associated with the group’s ideas.