Patrick Caulfield: A Retrospective

The British artist Patrick Caulfield (1936–2005) emerged in the swinging London of the 1960s as one of the most distinctive new voices in British art. He belonged to the New Generation of painters—such as David Hockney, R. B. Kitaj, Allen Jones, Bridget Riley, and others—who took “the ghastly good taste” out of British painting and gave it a new sparkle, direction, and grip on reality. A widely admired and respected artist, Caulfield was associated with pop art, though with a different, more refined accent: a stack of pottery, a pony, chimney pots on a roof were focused with a singular intensity, outlined in his trademark black line with all superfluous detail eliminated. Caulfield magnified common objects and made them into modern icons. Later, he expanded his themes with a series of commanding architectural interiors. He confronted the viewer with cafés without diners, banquets without banqueters, offices without workers, glasses of wine and whiskey without drinkers, kitchens without chefs, and so on. These mysterious absences are painted in bright, high-keyed colors as though the human presence were hiding in plain sight.

This exhibition included sixty paintings by Caulfield, ranging from his earliest works, inspired by cubism and pop art, to his more recent images, in which a minimal use of line and maximum use of color are combined to create wonderfully jarring snapshots of modern life. Caulfield commented on the detachment of modern society by imagining still lifes and interiors which seem to exist untouched by the human presence, preventing his audience from truly accessing these “views.” Caulfield promised, in his own words, to deliver “the shock of the familiar.”


Musee National d’Histoire et d’Art, Luxembourg: April 23–June 13, 1999

Centro de Arte Moderna José de Azeredo Perdigão,
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon: July 2–September 26, 1999

Yale Center for British Art: October 27, 1999–January 9, 2000


Patrick Caulfield: A Retrospective was organized by the British Council and the Hayward Gallery. The exhibition traveled to the Yale Center for British Art in late 1999, where additional support was provided by the Friends of British Art.

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Visitors in the galleries, Yale Center for British Art, photo by © Elizabeth Felicella / ESTO