The Life of Bryan: A Celebration of Bryan Robertson

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Bryan Robertson (1925-2002) was the greatest director the Tate Gallery never had. In 1952, at the age of 27, and against formidable competition (which included David Sylvester and Lawrence Gowing), he became Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, a post he held until 1969. While there he effected a revolution in the British museum world, bringing the more innovative and radical American and European contemporary artists to the UK, as well as programming a series of exhibitions devoted to British artists in mid-career. He was the first to show Pollock, Rothco, Rauschenberg and Johns in England, matching this with historical re-evaluations of Turner, Stubbs, Bellotto and Rowlandson. Among Europeans he showed Mondrian, de Stael, Malevich and Poliakoff , and the English artists included Barbara Hepworth, Alan Davie, Ceri Richards and Keith Vaughan. Among younger painters and sculptors he identified the New Generation of Caro, Hoyland, Riley, Jones and Caulfield, and stage-managed a flow of exhibitions which transformed the Whitechapel and made it the gallery to visit. Robertson was a man of vision and flair, and this book celebrates his lasting infl uence over the way we look at and think about art, as witnessed through the words of his friends and contemporaries and in excerpts from his own written works.

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