Modernists & Mavericks

I have been reading Martin Gayford’s admirable and extremely readable Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney & the London Painters which has taught me a great deal about the London art world in the 1950s and 1960s, which I didn’t know. Not least, it has made me understand the milieu in which Gillian Ayres was trained, as depicted in a photograph of her sitting in a Camberwell pub surrounded by earnest (and possibly admiring) young men:-


And later in her studio in Chiswick Mall:-


I like the description of Carnaby Street by the Menswear Association as ‘codswallop fashion of perverted peacocks’ and Francis Bacon’s quotation of Paul Valéry that ‘modern artists want the grin without the cat’. It gives as a whole a sense of the interrelatedness of the London art world, its smallness, and how some of the great figures, including Freud and Hodgkin, took so long to be recognised.


4 thoughts on “Modernists & Mavericks

  1. Martin Gayford is a good critic and commentator. His column in The Spectator was invariably excellent.

    Wonderful photographs of Gillian Ayres ! How attractive she was !

    The 60s was very good for a number of artists, now rather forgotten : Ian Stephenson, Mark Lancaster, Jeremy Moon, Antony Fry : several of them represented by the Rowan Gallery in Bruton Street (Alec Gregory Hood ). And Madeleine Ponsonby’s New Art Centre in Sloane Street (Prunella Clough, Sandra Blow and St Ives painters like Terry Frost and Bryan Pearce).

  2. Gayford appeared on the Robert Elms show, 28/04/2018 ( and was very charming. Gillian Ayres got a few mentions, as an under-rated but ‘absolutely pre-eminent British abstract artist’. Gayford also noted how Freud was largely ignored from the mid-50s till the 70s, while Richard Smith is now largely forgotten.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s