Amidst the dominance of the late 1970’s abstract, conceptual, and minimalist art, a number of artists focused their creative energies into the examination of the painting of the post war period. The term School of London was coined by R.B. Kitaj in order to refer to the group of artists and their preoccupation with figurative painting whom he gathered for the 1976 exhibition The Human Clay at the Hayward gallery. The chief artists associated with the idea of School of London, in addition to Kitaj himself, were Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Howard Hodgkin, and Leon Kossoff.
In the face of the avant-garde approaches, these painters pursued both drawing and painting focused on the examination of the human form and the world around them. The term stuck regardless of the fact that there was no mutual understanding of what a new figurative painting should look like, since the styles of painting of all the painters differed greatly. Ranging from the eruption of flesh presented by Bacon and Andrews, to the thick brushstrokes of the celebrated Lucian Freud, to the impasto painting of both Kossoff and Auerbach, the link which held the London group together is less its form of expression but rather their shared root in the great tradition of figurative paintings.
Within the reign of abstraction, its more expressive and more hermetic forms, to focus on the survival and renewal of a more ‘traditional’ understanding of painting was a very controversial notion. Seen as an inspiration to a younger generation of artists that followed, the ideas of the School of London inspired the revival of the figurative painting in the Neo-expressionism and New Spirit painting style.
To the original group of artists, which stood out from the crowd of the featured artists in the 1976’s exhibition much is owed, so please scroll down in order to find out more about them.