About Us

20th Century British Art

Howgill Tattershall is an exciting new Gallery, specialising in British art of the 19th and 20th centuries. We sell Modern British 20th Century Art in a variety of media, including pictures in oil, acrylic, pastel and black & white and we also have selection of sculpture and ceramics. We offer carefully-selected and competitively-priced work by a range of Modern British Artists.

Howgill Tattershall is run by Hilary Taylor and Peter Vickers. Hilary is an art historian, specialising in British art of the 19th and 20th centuries, and Peter is an award-winning designer. Whilst pursuing separate careers, for many years we have enjoyed looking at, buying, hanging, researching and thinking about art that has been produced in the British Isles, especially over the last couple of centuries.

We have travelled around the country, visiting small galleries, artists' studios and auction houses, thus building our collection. Howgill Tattershall Fine Art is the logical conclusion of our love of British art. Setting up our on-line Gallery has made us think carefully and critically about what we find engaging, interesting and challenging.

The phrase, 'Modern British Art', has been much used to signify a wide range of artistic practice, often confined to that period between c.1920 and 1960 - but Modern British Art is nothing if not flexible. It might simply imply work of the kind shown at the New English Art Club. It can embrace the distinctively Scottish, 'Glasgow Boys' (and Glasgow Girls), post-War Scottish Colourists or the more recent, 'New Glasgow Boys'. It might invoke works which celebrate the Celtic roots and ancient landscapes of Wales or Ireland. It can refer to the self-conscious exploration of industrial and post-industrial Britain. It could reasonably introduce the YBAs, the Young British Artists, who leapt from Goldsmiths straight onto the international art scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s - and who are no longer quite so young.

If all this seems incoherent, what about the influences and debates which arrive in the UK from elsewhere? Modern British Art can turn out to be a polite engagement with the real modern stuff going on across the Channel; or an exciting exploration of mid-20th century Modernism, with roots in post-Revolutionary Russia or the European Low Countries; or a response to individual Expressionism from Germany or across the Atlantic. What about the enormous impact of artists from elsewhere in the world who have settled in Britain - not to mention the Post-Modern conviction that the very notion of artistic categorisation is dead anyway: what is left to say? Is there any possibility of capturing in words what Modern British Art might be?

The only answer is - obviously - that Modern British Art is various, in many and fascinating ways. This might be true, but it is not wholly satisfactory. For there often is something - a savour, an echo, something which reverberates in the mind - which is, at the least, subtly distinctive and sometimes quite recognisable. This is not fail-safe. One might confuse a Newlyn-school painting for a work made in the Low Countries, or suspect that a landscape executed with the brilliant authority of the Scottish Colourists might be French or Italian. One might mistake a powerful British portrait for something from Russia or Poland, or believe that a stern Non-Objectivity or a taste for gestural abstraction owes its genesis to North America. But this hardly matters. Indeed, one of the most significant characteristics of British art is that it engages with influences and ideas - sometimes absorbing them, sometimes resisting. It garners not only from the West, but also from the Orient, from the Indian subcontinent, from South America, Africa, Australasia - and from the street as well as the salon.

Modern British Art, even until the present day, can be interpreted as contemplative, convivial, ambitious, modest, mordant, comfortable, nostalgic and challenging. It reflects a society that is excited by the possibilities of urban life - and depressed, sometimes, by its harshness; celebrates the multiplicity of modern Britain - and dreams, sometimes, of a more insular past; loves the possibilities inherent in exploring the world - retreats, sometimes, to the family unit; climbs the intellectual heights of abstraction - but fails, quite often, to resist the charm of daily minutiae; revels in romance - yet treats it as a guilty pleasure, deserving only irony and ridicule. In other words, British art is contrary.

In the end, we have turned to others to do the summing-up for us. Interviewed by John Wilson, in December 2011, Simon Schama spoke about his perception of British art - clarified, perhaps, by the distance lent by his residing in the USA. He describes the work of Roger Hilton - surely, an archetypal Modern British Artist - as, ‘bringing the literary and narrative - such a British itch - into abstraction’.

And, in her Guardian review of ‘Migrations’, a show at Tate Britain in early 2012, Ruth Padel writes,

‘Like languages, diseases and the alphabet, through trade, invasion or colonisation, art migrates. ... Art and migration belong together. But migration and home belong together, too. They are two sides of the same coin. .. Like ‘British’ blood, many of the works .. have in some sense, come from somewhere else’.

The devil of British Art, then, is in the detail. British art rarely reveals its all on first acquaintance. But, when one lives with it for a while, it persists in communicating with us, it can challenge and prompt new ideas, it can be reassuring and familiar. It can offer colour and texture which excites and sparkles, or which soothes and demands close inspection. It can create a space and a mood. It can even be that bit of grit in our shoe. I like the idea of a 'British itch'.