I’m currently working on a book that explores how art served as a means of making sense of the home in Britain in the decades after the Second World War. The meaning of the home was particularly unstable at that historical moment; it was imbued with the optimism and hopes of postwar recovery, while continuing to resonate with the memories and anxieties of wartime loss and destruction.
My argument is that artworks from the period can offer insights into the experience of the reconstruction of home in Britain, for they make visible these contradictions and allow us to think through how they might have been negotiated by individuals.
The project covers a range of British artists and explores conceptions of home that, at times, reach far beyond the more traditional limits of the household. They include John Bratby’s fraught and occasionally uncomfortable representations of his own family and home; Francis Bacon’s images suggesting a sense of home adrift in the queer sociality of the London streets; Keith Vaughan’s images of male bodies that register the loss and renewal of the spaces and relationships of home; Francis Newton Souza’s images of migrant bodies under the strain of assimilation, visibility, and violence; Victor Pasmore’s attempts to engage with the wider social reconstruction of home in postwar Britain through art and public projects such as his work in the new town Peterlee in the north east of England.
I have already published a number of articles on this theme including:
- 'Francis Bacon and Queer Intimacy in Post-War London’, Visual Culture in Britain, Vol. 18, No. 1 (April 2017), pp. 84-99.
- ‘Memories of Kinship in Keith Vaughan’s Post-War Paintings’, Art History, Vol. 38, No. 3 (June 2015), pp. 536-61.
- ‘Cold War At Home: John Bratby In The 1950s’ in British Art In The Nuclear Age, ed. Catherine Jolivette (Ashgate: Farnham, 2014), pp. 151-69.
The project will culminate in a book to be published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2019
Dr Gregory Salter