My Favourite Painting: Duncan Wilson

The chief executive of Historic England chooses a strikingly simple, beautiful image from a modern master.

Duncan Wilson on his choice: Patrick Caulfield’s Interior: Evening

‘I grew up with Patrick Caulfield’s screenprints. My late father was a keen collector of contemporary art and I remember him taking me to West End gallery openings, including several Caulfield exhibitions. I particularly like the Morning, Noon, Evening, Night’ series for its simplicity of line and rich colour. I don’t know if the echo of Hogarth’s similarly titled series–of course, very differently realised–is deliberate or not.

‘Caulfield’s prints will hang in any interior and appeal across the generations. But they are also highly distinctive, immediately recognisable and characteristic of his era. I love them .’

Duncan Wilson is chief executive of Historic England

John McEwen comments on Interior: Evening

Patrick Caulfield enjoyed the particular honour of being an artist admired by other artists. His friend and contemporary, the late Sir Howard Hodgkin, said of him: ‘Many 20th-century artists make paintings about paintings, but in Patrick’s case they were about feelings as well. Feelings about what it is to be an artist — about friendship and sensibility. He was such a connoisseur of spaces where people gather for pleasure… and he managed to convey in his painting the melancholy that can haunt such spaces — born of emptiness and artifice.’

Caulfield’s ancestry was Irish, but he was brought up in Acton and latterly Bolton, where his father worked for the de Havilland Aircraft Company and his mother in a munitions factory. He left school at 15 and was inspired by Moulin Rouge, a 1952 film about Toulouse-Lautrec. During his free time away from duty in the RAF, he attended evening classes at Harrow School of Art and proceeded to Chelsea School of Art.

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Patrick Caulfield, born on this day in 1936 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Photo: Michael Cooper, 1966⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #patrickcaulfield #caulfield #artist #happybirthday #birthday #onthisday #bornonthisday #hb #modernart #modernist #painter #britishart #midcentury #art #moderbritish #modbrit #abstraction

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Interior: Evening is one of a set of four silk screenprints of the same subject at different times of day — Morning, Noon, Evening, Night — the mood altered as much as the light, yet only by colour changes. Bryan Robertson, legendary post-Second World War director of the Whitechapel Gallery, was an early supporter.

He wrote that, in the 1940s and 1950s, muted colours were equated with ‘moral rectitude and pure colour with irresponsibility… Caulfield’s use of strong bright colour is part of the liberation of the 1960s’.

He also wrote: ‘If poetry has partly to do with order and compression, so that a line of verse… can pack more associations… than a page of prose, then Caulfield is undoubtedly a visual poet.’