British Painting '74

Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery, 26 September -- 17 November 1974

A Major Survey of British Painting 
British Painting ’74 was organised by the painter and critic Andrew Forge. It was the second in a series of group exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery that focused exclusively on contemporary art. Forge intended for the exhibition to ‘reflect, as far as possible, British painting’s own view of itself, and not just one man’s prejudice or predilection’. To ensure this was the case, he asked 24 painters to nominate ten artists each. The resulting list featured 125 painters – both emerging and established – among them Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield and Bridget Riley. 

While many of the artists included in the exhibition had received major retrospectives, others were much less well-known.

Richard Hamilton, one of the painters approached by Forge, approved of the selection process, stating that ‘The proposal seems like a good one to me, I have never been afraid of the kind of mess that a mixed show of this kind is likely to conjure up. It is more important to reveal activity than to demonstrate the sensibility of the selector.’

Other artists, including Howard Hodgkin, also welcomed the opportunity to shape the exhibition.

British Painting ’74 was attended by 29,701 visitors. The Arts Council’s Norbert Lynton, commenting on the response to the exhibition, stated that ‘It obviously created a substantial stir. If some of the press comment was critical ... much of it was encouraging, and generally the effect was to bring more people to the exhibition than we have learned to expect when we show contemporary art.’

A sample of press cuttings for British Painting 74.

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