Henry Moore, Bridget Riley and Malcolm McLaren uncovered at Croydon Museum

By Culture24 Staff | 09 October 2009
a print showing rows of reclining figures

(Above) Henry Moore, 17 Reclining Figures. Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation

Exhibition notice: Scene Unseen – unpacking the art of Croydon at Croydon Museum until May 1 2010.

What do Malcolm McLaren, Bridget Riley and Henry Moore have in common? They have all at one time or another lived or studied in Croydon, as a new exhibition at Croydon Museum illustrates.

Seen Unseen – unpacking the art of Croydon, brings together some big names and mines the paintings in the reserve collection of the Museum to reveal how the town has always had a vibrant arts-scene. The Croydon Art Society is believed to be the oldest in England outside London and the exhibition reveals an eclectic mix of work by local artists and international names.

As well as the aforementioned there’s James Cooper, Allen Jones and illustrator Cicely Mary Barker (of Flower Fairy fame) selected from a surprisingly varied collection. More modern pieces by well known artists with links to Croydon, such as Bridget Riley who taught at Croydon College are also on show.

an abstract painting of squares in turquoise

Bathroom Mirror’, Patrick Caulfield, 1968. © The Estate of Patrick Caulfield. All rights reserved, DACS 2009

Fledgling work by a young Malcolm McLaren, who has vivid memories of his time as an art student, shows how he was inspired by the architectural evolution the town was going through.

“Croydon will always be remembered as a rite of passage of my life,” says the ex-Sex Pistols manager. “The constant roaming at night through its market streets and thereafter navigating those deep leafy suburbs into the countryside beyond.”

McLaren remembers how he used to: “spend hours looking out of Croydon’s art school windows observing and then struggling to come to terms with these giant triffids of buildings that rise up and spread themselves all along East Croydon’s path.”

a sketch of a tower block

© Malcolm McCLaren

Using charcoal pencil and anything close to hand the young art student, “drew and drew and drew.”

Visitors can see the result of these artistic outpourings in his drawings of sixties high-rise Britain. “The rest,” says McLaren, “must have fallen into the hands of long lost girlfriends somewhere in Croydon.”

Other remnants and masterpieces residing in the Croydon art collection include work by Max Ernst and Patrick Caulfield, whilst local visitors might recognise the work of local artist and illustrator Norman Partridge, whose Sci-Fi Fantasy Sketch makes for one the more surreal encounters in the exhibition.

an abstract painting resembling bark

Max Ernst, Bois et la lune bleue. © The Estate of Max Ernst. All rights reserved, DACS 2009.

The first major exhibition of the Croydon Art Collection since 1988, the show is organised thematically and includes works ranging from early 18th century landscapes to modern abstract art. Visitors are promised a visual history of the area, from its scenic countryside roots to the centre of transport and industry it has become today.

Scene Unseen also explores the current arts scene in Croydon, highlighting how much Croydon has to offer. The Museum of Croydon has worked in conjunction with Croydon College to produce a film of a small selection of arts groups in the area, from a youth circus group to the Croydon Art Society.

Find out about Curator Brigid Bradley's favourite painting in the exhibition.

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