Patrick Procktor: The Last Romantic
The exhibition I have curated for TheGallery at Arts University Bournemouth opened on 14 January 2016 and continues until 25 February.
• From the press release:
The artist Patrick Procktor RA (1936-2003) first came to prominence in 1963, when his first show opened at The Redfern Gallery in London. Both critically acclaimed and a near sell-out, the show launched him as a star of the Sixties art scene: remarkable given that he had graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art less than a year before. With his friends David Hockney, Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, Procktor became part of a bohemian circle, one that reinvented modernity, seizing glamour as a liberating force at a time when, in cultural commentator Peter York’s phrase, ‘Style became a weapon to forge your own legend.’ Renowned for his camp theatricality and rapier wit, the charismatic Procktor formed many friendships, amongst them Cecil Beaton, Christopher Gibbs, Gilbert and George, and Princess Margaret. He painted and drew portraits of many luminaries of the era, such as rock star Mick Jagger, playwright Joe Orton, and the actor Jill Bennett. He travelled widely in Europe, India, China and Egypt, painting wherever he went.
This major exhibition of paintings, drawings, watercolours and prints traces this prolific artist’s career over the course of four decades. It includes important loans from both public and private collections, along with works from the artist’s estate. In considering the artist’s career and influences, the exhibition explores his relationship to figuration and abstraction, to Pop, fashion, music, film and photography. Key groups of work serve to document the development of Procktor’s art, as it progressed towards a particular vision and sensibility. There is an emphasis on drawing in the show, including working studies and examples of the artist’s work as illustrator and theatre designer. Documentary material includes photographs of Procktor and friends made in 1969 by the photographer Homer Sykes.
Amongst works of the Sixties are remarkable, rarely seen canvases, in which the artist can be seen to engage with the stylistic idioms of the day, moving progressively towards the signature style for which he became renowned. Procktor had great facility and lightness of touch, particularly in watercolour; indeed, he was the most gifted water colourist of his generation. Amongst work in that medium will be landscapes and portraits, including that of his friend Derek Jarman. The artist reached a pinnacle of refinement in his work of the early Eighties, here represented in portraits and landscapes in oils and watercolour. Latterly, in a return to his Slade roots, Procktor’s work became looser and more expressive, evident here in paintings and drawings loaned by his estate.
Behind the façade of Procktor’s dandyish persona lay a highly intelligent and complex man, always modest about his achievements. His sensibility was an essentially romantic one, and in his art he balanced a romantic impulse with classical restraint. Central to his artistic philosophy was Oscar Wilde’s dictum: ‘To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim’. In examining and documenting Procktor’s work, this exhibition will confirm the full seriousness of this hugely gifted artist.
• An illustrated publication accompanies the show. Patrick Procktor: The Last Romantic, published by text + work, is available from TheGallery, Arts University Bournemouth.