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Café, galleries and shop: Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm

House: Tuesday – Sunday 12  – 5pm

Free, timed entry tickets to the House are available at the information desk on arrival or online here.

Last entry to the House is at 4.30pm

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+44 (0)1223 748 100
mail@kettlesyard.cam.ac.uk

 

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22 October 2018

 

I hope I’ll find a suitable gallery for the large paintings, I’d like to show them at the same time. [1]
Richard Pousette-Dart to Jim Ede, 1943.

It is often assumed that Jackson Pollock was the first Abstract Expressionist artist to start working at a very large scale in 1943. However, Richard Pousette-Dart had already completed his painting Symphony No. 1, The Transcendental  the year before, making it arguably one of the movement’s first monumental canvasses.

Pousette-Dart’s immense paintings were so unusual in the early 1940s that some galleries didn’t have large enough walls to display them. At Kettle’s Yard you can see the beautiful immersive two by three metre painting Presence, Ramapo Mist (1969). Alongside these huge paintings Pousette-Dart was also making tiny works such as Untitled (c. 1960s), pictured here, measuring approximately eight by fifteen centimetres.

[1]Richard Pousette-Dart to Jim Ede, letter, 24 May 1943, PD0123, Kettle’s Yard Archive.

I dreamed sculpture. [2]
Richard Pousette-Dart

Richard Pousette-Dart is best known for his paintings which have colourful layered surfaces; however, he also worked in a wide variety of media and he began his artistic career as a sculptor and photographer.

Pousette-Dart made sculptures in stone, brass, wire and other materials, some of which are included in the exhibition at Kettle’s Yard. Like Jim Ede, the creator of Kettle’s Yard, he especially admired the work of the French-born sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891-1915).

[2] Richard Pousette-Dart, ‘My Life In Brief’, 1937, PD0001, p. 1, Kettle’s Yard Archive.

 I paint creative action. [3]
Richard Pousette-Dart to his mother Flora, 1941

Expressionist painting is a term often used in relation to Jackson Pollock’s vigorously poured and dripped canvases. Richard Pousette-Dart’s highly-worked, layered and equally expressive canvases, were rarely discussed using this terminology. However, this quote from a letter to his mother shows that he was thinking in these terms over a decade before Rosenberg popularised the term ‘action painting.’

[3] Richard Pousette-Dart to Flora Pousette-Dart, letter, 5 April 1941, Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation.

 

Circles are/whatever you make them/all or nothing/they are living signs of flowers or spirit/they are signs of heaven/rising & falling suns & moons/the centre of the earth and universe/God[’s] eye […] they tremble in my transcendental landscape

Richard Pousette-Dart, Notebook B-89, 1965

The circle dominates Pousette-Dart’s work more than any other form. In 1940 he gave Jim Ede a small, circular brass ring as a ‘token’ of their friendship. Pousette-Dart believed that the circle, as a symbol, was a spiritual form. For him the circle signalled the ‘circular vibration’ of ‘eternal life’.

Five brass rings are on display at Kettle’s Yard, as well as many of his later paintings such as Black Circle, Time, 1979-80 and Square of Meditation #2, 1979.

To teach is to learn […] if we ever think we know all there is to know about our creativity we are dead as artists.

Richard Pousette-Dart, c 1980s.

Richard Pousette-Dart taught at art schools throughout his life. One of his students at the Art Students League of New York (1980–85) was Ai Weiwei (born 1957).
His aim as a teacher, was not to tell people how to paint or prescribe methods but to facilitate each individual’s practice. In the 1970s, Christopher Wool was another student of the artist. Wool recalls: ‘Richard embraced his role as a teacher, but also didn’t want to provide solutions for his students; he wanted them to look for their own answers. Instead of being dogmatic or indoctrinating he encouraged everyone to look for their own way.’