Postwar art in Britain
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There are two small rooms that bring together the art of the 1940’s a period inevitably dominated by the Second World War and the Holocaust. In this room here, you see art made during the war, scenes of devastation and of mutilation and also the very varied responses to that situation you see images of pessimism and optimism, horrific scenes and utopian idealism all different responses to the same horrific historic situation. The work behind me, Francis Bacon’s 'Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion'. occupies an important position in Tate Britain it’s literally on a turning point in the building and it is a turning point in the history of British art it’s one of the masterpieces in the Tate’s collection. It’s a work which was seen immediately as a brutally frank and horrifically pessimistic response to the Second World War. It was first exhibited in April 1945 and though the two were not directly related the fact that this painting was unveiled the month that the concentration camps were revealed to the world inevitably led to the way it has been understood as a statement of human brutality and suffering. The sculpture behind me shows Jacob wrestling with the Angel. It’s one of a sequence of monumental alabaster carvings made by Jacob Epstein in the later part of his career. It’s an image that depicts the material and the spiritual world in conflict if you like one which takes on an added resonance when you see it here in a room of art made in the 1940’s all of which in one way or another inevitably reflects or represents the events of the Second World War.