Contemporary Art Society Annual Report 1967-68

30 July 2015
Cover for the 1967-68 Contemporary Art Society Annual Report. Front Cover: Henry Moore Knife Edge-Two Piece. Presented to the Nation by the Contemporary Art Society and the artist, 1967.
Cover for the 1967-68 Contemporary Art Society Annual Report. Front Cover: Henry Moore Knife Edge-Two Piece. Presented to the Nation by the Contemporary Art Society and the artist, 1967.

Front Cover: Henry Moore, Knife Edge-Two Piece. Presented to the Nation by the Contemporary Art Society and the artist, 1967.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother

Executive Committee
Whitney Straight CBE MC DFC Chairman
Anthony Lousada Vice-Chairman
Peter Meyer Honorary Treasurer
The Hon. John Sainsbury Honorary Secretary
G. L. Conran
Derek Hill
Bryan Robertson OBE
The Hon Michael Astor
The Lord Croft
Alan Bowness
James Melvin
Dr Kenneth Marsh
Norman Reid
David Sylvester
David Thompson
Nancy Balfour
Joanna Drew
Pauline Vcgelpoel MBE Organising Secretary
Sylvia Wren Assistant

Chairman’s Report June 27th 1968
I have pleasure in presenting my report which covers the Society’s activities from June last year until today. Peter Meyer, whom we were very pleased to welcome back on the Committee as Honorary Treasurer at last year’s Annual Meeting, will be dealing with the Society’s financial affairs in his speech which follows mine and deals with our financial year which ended on December 31st 1967.

As well as welcoming Peter Meyer back to the Committee we were very happy to elect Joanna Drew, whose knowledge will I am sure be of great value. At the same time we were sorry to lose both Bryan Robertson and Derek Hill who were due to retire from the Committee at the last Annual General Meeting, but were invited to complete their terms of office as buyers for 1967. This year the buyers are Norman Reid, and two members of the Committee who have held office for an equal period of time, Michael Astor and myself. We, therefore, agreed that as it was Norman Reid’s first opportunity to act as buyer, Michael Astor and myself, both previous buyers, should share our part of the purse.

During the second half of 1967 we held two evening parties at the Tate Gallery, one for the Picasso Exhibition in June and the other for the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation Collection. Our most recent party at the Tate was held on May 16th to mark the close of the Barbara Hepworth Exhibition. Dame Barbara was the Guest of Honour, first at a buffet supper in the restaurant, and later at a party in the Gallery, where hundreds of our members were able to meet Dame Barbara and have a last look at the wonderful exhibition. This was such a successful evening that we are very much hoping to repeat one on similar lines at the end of the Henry Moore Exhibition in September. We are, as always, most grateful to the Trustees and the Director of the Tate for allowing us to give these parties.

Before the end of 1967 we arranged three highly successful short trips. Forty people weekended in Bath on July 8th and 9th; thirty one members spent a week in Scotland in September and over fifty members spent the weekend of November 25th in Dublin. In Bath members saw the summer exhibition at the Bath Academy of Art at Corsham Court, and the American Museum. They lunched in the Orangery at Dyrham and were generously entertained to tea by Mr. and Mrs. William Scott at their farmhouse where they were able to see some of Mr. Scott’s recent paintings. In Edinburgh and Glasgow the party saw the National Gallery of Scotland and the Glasgow Art Gallery with their magnificent collections. They were also given a special evening viewing of the Whistlers in the Hunterian Museum of Glasgow University and also of the fine prints and drawings collection belonging to the Fine Arts Department. They were privileged to see the private collections of the Duke of Buccleuch, The Marquess of Bute, The Earl Haig, and Mr. William Keswick’s fine Henry Moores in their wonderful setting. In Edinburgh, as well as being shown over the Edinburgh Tapestry Company, they saw the Edinburgh Open 100 Exhibition.

Amongst architectural highlights there was Glasgow Art School and the fine new seminary at Cardross. Dublin, was also a tremendously successful weekend arranged primarily to give members an opportunity of seeing the important exhibition of international art, ROSC. They were further delighted, however, by being invited to see Sir Alfred and Lady Beit’s magnificent collection of old masters at Russborough and also to see Sir Basil and Lady Goulding’s collection of contemporary painting and sculpture at Enniskerry. Famous Irish plaster work was not neglected and in interesting contrast members saw the fine new library at Trinity College.

At the end of January this year, Pauline Vogelpoel led a party of members on an extensive tour of India which included visits to many famous points of archeological and artistic interest as well as art galleries, artist’s studios, and private collections in many principal centres. The trip was also conveniently timed to coincide with the first Triennial of International Art ever to be held in India, in Delhi in February. Soon after she returned from India Pauline organised an evening viewing of the De Stijl Exhibition at the Hampstead Art Centre and another most enjoyable trip to the St. Ives area for the weekend of April 6th and 7th. Over sixty members were mosthospitably entertained by the Penwith Art Society in St. Ives and welcomed by artists in their studios here and along the coast. Amongst artists visited were Dame Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron, Willie Barnes Graham, Paul Feiler, Bryan Wynter, Denis Mitchell and John Wells. It was very pleasant to meet many of the artists who were represented in exhibitions at both the Penwith Gallery and the Newlyn Art Gallery.

The most exciting event of the past few years has undoubtedly been our gift of a Henry Moore to the nation last November. “Knife Edge – Two Piece” was unveiled on the splendid site made available to us in Abingdon Street Gardens near the House of Lords, by the Minister of Public Building and Works. It was unveiled by the Minister in the presence of Miss Jennie Lee, a very distinguished gathering, and a great deal of rain. Neither this nor the arrival, on a State Visit, of the Turkish Premier failed to ensure that the occasion was a memorable one, followed as it was by an excellent luncheon in honour of Henry Moore at the Savoy Hotel. Over three hundred members attended this, and enjoyed listening to both Sir Kenneth Clark and Miss Jennie Lee pay tribute to Henry Moore. We consider that the acquisition of a major Henry Moore for London is an achievement of which we can be truly proud. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the members of the committee, and all the members of the Society who gave such generous support to this ambitious project. A very special word of thanks to Henry Moore without whose generosity this project would not have been possible. Those of you who were unable to attend the unveiling or hear Sir Kenneth Clark’s tribute to Henry Moore will be able to see a photograph of the unveiling and read the tribute in the annual report.

At the time of this meeting our office is being kept particularly busy dealing not only with forthcoming events but with the complicated handling of “operation allocation”. On March 11th we invited the directors or representatives of member galleries throughout Great Britain and the Commonwealth to see our Recent Acquisitions Exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. They were asked to send lists of preferences of work they would like to have for their galleries from the exhibition. Over 134 works were shown and I am pleased to report that after dealing with all the letters of request from nearly 100 galleries these works will shortly be leaving our office for their permanent homes. Before they were finally allocated these works were loaned to public bodies, universities, and other institutions. We were also able to form a large travelling exhibition of recent acquisitions which was shown at the Bournemouth Art Society and at the Huddersfield Art Gallery. We will now endeavour to build up our collection as soon as possible in order not to disappoint the many borrowers to whom we present such a unique source of supply of pictures and at such modest rates.

The period covered by my report comes to an end with our two most recent events. On June 5th British Petroleum kindly gave us the use of their cinema in Britannic House to show members four art films. This was followed by the tour of the building and its art collection and the use of the senior dining room for an excellent cocktail party. Both David Thompson and David Sylvester kindly spoke to members about their films which were amongst those shown.

On June 15th a record number of over 200 people spent a marvellous summer day visiting John Piper’s studio and house at Fawley and also Mr. Alistair McAlpine’s collection nearby at Fawley House. In the afternoon Mr. Gerald Benney showed visitors his silver and gold ware and his studios and house at Beenham near Newbury. I would like to extend our most sincere thanks to all our hosts and hostesses throughout England and abroad for their generous goodwill towards the Society’s interests. We are most indebted to them. I would also like to thank our members, without whom these visits would have little appeal. They continue to give such enthusiastic and increasing support to the events we organise. This and the many letters commending Miss Vogelpoel on the imaginative way in which she organises these events give her great encouragement in her endeavours to arrange more and more interesting events.

The last twelve-month period appears to be one of the most active I can remember for many years. I must again make my annual plea for as many new members as possible, so please give your continued support and help our Society to achieve results of which we can all be really proud.

Treasurer’s Report June 27th 1968
There is one item that dominates our Accounts for the year 1967 and that is the special purchase of the Henry Moore Bronze. The Chairman has referred to Mr. Moore’s generosity. In fact, he did not accept anything himself and the amount of £7,845 appearing in the Accounts is simply the expense of casting and carriage. We are continually hearing of rising prices for works of art and in the case of sculpture it is perhaps surprising to realise how much it actually costs to make.

We were only able to make this acquisition through the generosity of our members who contributed a total of £3,399, leaving a balance to be found from our own funds of £4,445. Of this sum £1,610 was found from current income and the balance of £2,835 from reserves. In other words, this last figure appears as the deficit for the year. In case anyone thinks we are being unduly prodigal with our resources, it should be explained that in anticipation of this purchase we put over £2,500 to reserve in the previous two years.

Our income was less than in 1966, largely due to a substantial reduction in Bequests and Donations. This is, of course, beyond our control, but what does worry us is the fact that our subscriptions were at a lower level. The only way in which we seem to be able to get new members is through our parties and jollifications and these were particularly successful in 1967, showing increased profit in spite of the fact that there was no substantial overseas tour. But clearly we are not getting enough new members and we would welcome suggestions as to how this can be achieved.


Address by Sir Kenneth Clark at the luncheon in honour of Henry Moore, Savoy Hotel, November 1st 1967

I have never been much of a believer in the theory that great artists pass unrecognised. Talent and originality may remain hidden, but greatness has about it a kind of resonance and authority that is unmistakable. When Henry Moore had only just left the College of Art people who cared for sculpture knew that something extraordinary had happened in this country. I remember going to his first one-man show, in the Warren Gallery – 1928 I think it was – in the spirit of one who was about to have a revelation. And I remember coming away elated at the thought that at last there was a contemporary English artist whom I could whole-heartedly admire. (Actually there were two or three more, but at the time they were unknown to me.) Looking back on Henry Moore’s work of that date it’s rather hard to know why we were quite so confident – but we were. And in his second show at the Leicester Galleries in 1931, our feelings were entirely confirmed by the first reclining figures and the first mothers and children. One felt in them a coil of plastic energy which would go on growing and expanding – and so it has turned out. The next two exhibitions contained a number of abstract pieces – if indeed anything that Henry Moore does can rightly be called abstract – and I must confess that a few of them made one pause for breath. One didn’t immediately see their human connotations; but even so one had no doubt that they were grandiose and awe-inspiring objects.

They were never mannered, never merely decorative never gimmicky or self-conscious. Even surrealism, that death-dealing movement, released something in Henry Moore without interfering with his life-giving qualities. Then in 1935-6 the reclining figures freed themselves from the influence of Mexico and became completely personal creations in the central tradition of European art. The most impressive of these figures was the one in Hornton stone, which was the first work of Henry Moore to enter a British gallery. It was bought for the Tate by the Contemporary Art Society. I thought then that it was one of the great works of modern art, and I am interested to see that in an excellent new series of books on the history of art from primitive times till today, this is the work which has been reproduced on the cover.

With this figure, and the two or three wooden recliners done at about the same time, Henry Moore’s character as an artist was defined. I do not mean that it was limited to those forms of expression – far from it. But I think it is true to say that he has concentrated his forces rather than dispersing them. But perhaps this is only another way of saying that he is a great artist, because with the solitary exception of Picasso I can hardly think of a single form-creator (as opposed to an illustrator) who has not spent his life in trying to give the fullest and most final statement to two or three central convictions – Monet? Turner? All great art is a kind of excavation, and it is one of Henry Moore’s qualities that excavation of himself becomes immediately excavation of his material. Proust’s famous saying that the great artist paints only one picture is nearly true: I would say two or three. And this is particularly true of sculpture where forms can have three relations to the earth – to lie upon it, like a range of mountains, to rise up out of it like a monolith, or to fold itself inwards in order to achieve a maximum density and resistance. Given this fundamental unity in Henry Moore’s work, nothing is more remarkable than the way it has expanded and developed. The original coil of energy has never exhausted itself. The stone reclining figure which looked large enough when we bought it for the Tate, compared to the two piece bronze recliners, looks as if it would go on the mantelpiece. Henry Moore has the capacity to think and feel on a monumental scale. One can see it in his smallest models – as everyone knows, when they are photographed out of doors with a landscape background they look gigantic; and however big they become in the final version they never look empty or inflated. For this reason Moore has become the great civic sculptor of the age. His work can be put down in any setting – if it is put in the right place (as it always is if the sculptor has a voice in the decision) – and hold its own with either landscape or architecture.

Whether on the grouse moors of Dumfries or the sand dunes of Oterloo or among the gigantic meccano sets of New York, his figures look equally in command of the situation. There they sit “in their air-surrounded entirety” to quote the sculptor’s well-known words – “stressing and straining, thrusting and opposing each other in spatial relationship” creating a focus or nucleus to tie together their surroundings. No wonder Henry Moore’s sculpture is wanted all over the world. When we encounter it in Germany or the U.S.A. we are filled with pride – and I hope the Inland Revenue authorities feel equally gratified. Henry Moore must be our greatest dollar-earner, next to whisky and it looks as if his own impoverished country would never be able to afford to put one of his major pieces in a worthy setting. But in this we were reckoning without the persuasive powers of a Contemporary Art Society, acting on Henry Moore’s immense generosity and public spirit.

Of course, it isn’t only their formal qualities that have made Henry Moore’s figures speak so urgently to us. An artist never achieves that degree of fame and popularity through the plastic qualities which Henry Moore values most highly and has described so vividly as his conscious aim. What makes an artist popular is not form but content – something which he says that unconsciously expresses the feelings, beliefs or fears of his generation. I will not try to analyse what it is in Henry Moore’s work that speaks so urgently to us; it would weary you — and what is worse would embarrass him. He has always rightly refused to read the many psychological interpretations of his work that have been written all over the world – especially in California, and it would be a dirty trick to spring one on him at the end of a good lunch. I will say only this – that the children of Henry Moore’s imagination come from great depths and express instincts that we share not only with primitive man, but with the animals. In these figures there is a consciousness of the earliest creation, of an age earlier than the dinosaurs or even of the amonites. And yet one of the nicest things about Henry Moore is that he is still extremely young — perhaps the youngest person present. Twenty years ago I began a book about him (there weren’t so many of them then). I am in the habit of writing about artists who are no longer with us, and it was quite a shock to realise that on the kind of tricky question that occupied my time when writing about Leonardo or Piero della Francesca I simply had to pick up the telephone and ask for Much Hadham 246. However I stopped writing the book half way through, because I saw that Henry was still only at the beginning of his career and that any judgements I made would become ridiculous (if they weren’t ridiculous already) when the next batch of work was completed. How right I was. For the greatest things were still to come.

One sometimes feels “he can’t go on” – but he does; and each fresh crop contains one or two entirely new and absolutely stunning masterpieces. Elderly people have always thought that art and morals were going to pot: I think so now, and nothing will persuade me that I am wrong, except a visit to Perry Green. Each time I go I come away revived, invigorated, hopeful, believing that man has not altogether sold his birthright to the machine, and that art can still reveal to us our deepest instincts and show us our place in the world of creation, as it did in Greece, in the middle ages and in the early renaissance. How extraordinary that the artist who can do this for us should still be with us – not in Periclean Athens or in Medicean Florence, but in the Savoy Hotel.

Buyer/Bryan Robertson
Frank Bowling, Big Bird, 1965
John Carter, Scatola, 1966 (sculpture: wood and hardboard)
Knighton Hosking, Untitled Screen Painting, 1965
Paul Huxley, Untitled No 43, 1965
Christopher Sanderson, Millington 1 (sculpture)
Michael Vaughan, Food Objects, 1 966
Franklin Wilson, 6 Pencil drawings

Buyer/Derek Hill
Francoise Boudet, Portrait of Madame Boudet
Patrick Byrne, Family Group
T. P. Flanagan, Sand Dunes
Alexander Fraser, Knives and Forks
Edward Giobbi, Landscape 1, 966
Henry Inlander, St Remy, Provence, 1966
Philip Jones, Green and Pink Landscape
Rory Mc Ewen, Polar Light Box, No 9
Cherith Mc Kinstry, The Prisoner, No 2
John Napper, Landscape
Wendy Pasmore, Blue Indigo
E. C. Plunkett, Reflections, 1966
E. C. Plunkett, Bozst, 1962 (oil and collage)
Brian Robb, Lagoon
Maurice de Sausmarez ARA, Near San Quirico, Tuscany
Michael Wishart, To leave before daybreak

Loans made by the Society
Exhibitions of the Society’s recent acquisitions were loaned to:
Portsmouth Art Gallery
Bournemouth Art Society
Huddersfield Art Gallery

Sculpture from the Society’s collection was loaned to:
Isleworth Polytechnic Open Air Exhibition/Bryan Kneale
Robert Adams/Brian Wall
British Council Fine Arts Department/Michael Bolus

Small Groups of pictures were loaned to:
Senate House, London University
Queen Mary College, London University
Westfield College, London University
Extra-mural Department, London University
Royal Free Hospital Medical School
Middlesex Hospital Senior Common Room
Berkhamsted School

To download the full Contemporary Art Society Annual Report 1967-68 as a pdf click here


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