Prunella Clough British, 1919-1999


Clough was unusual in her attraction to the stuff of ordinary life: housing estates, factories, docks, and borderlands between urban and rural areas. Her affinity for bleak and ugly subjects could be read, in part, as a reaction against her privileged upbringing in London’s Belgravia, the daughter of an Anglo-Irish aristocratic mother. Though seemingly banal, her subject matter was in fact ‘exotic’ to her. She was also influenced by her close relationship with John Berger, who in his capacity as critic was promoting a new realism in art and new values associated with that reality.

In the 1940s she began painting in Southwold, on the Suffolk coast, where her mother had a holiday home. Initially she was drawn to the ramshackle fishermen’s huts and docking boats of Blackshore, where this work was probably painted. As demonstrated in this work, Clough was both compelled by the industrious labour of the fisherman and surfaces and textures of their environment. She removes all unnecessary prettiness or elegance by refining her subject into abstract elements, flattening the pictorial space and using a close-toned colour palette. Later, the grittier scenery of Lowestoft’s busy fishing port captured her attention – as seen in her contribution to the Festival of Britain’s 60 Paintings for ’51 exhibition – which in turn lead to her interest in industrial landscapes.

Clough’s first solo exhibition was in 1947 and in 1999, the year of her death, she won the prestigious Jerwood Painting Prize. In the years between she exhibited at The Leicester Galleries, The Grosvenor Gallery, New Art Centre and Annely Juda Fine Art, as well as internationally. In 1960 a retrospective exhibition was held at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 1976 an Arts Council exhibition was held at the Serpentine Gallery and Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge staged an exhibition of her work in 1999.



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