Twentieth Century Artists in the Graves Gallery

Peter Coker

Peter Coker was one of the leading exponents of the Post-war British Art movement, dubbed the Kitchen Sink Painters. Along with artists such as John Bratby, Jack Smith and Derrick Greaves, Coker painted uncompromising compositions of everyday subjects in strong, thick paint-work using an expressionistic palette.

Coker upheld the French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix’s belief that a painting, first and foremost, should be a feast for the eye. He found a wide range of places and subjects to paint and altered his method of attack accordingly. But in every picture, large or small, his artistic signature emerges in the passion and directness of his gaze and in the excitement and energy with which he worked.

Coker's reputation is defined however, by a few atypical works completed over just a few years. His most famous works, a series of large, fiercely painted canvases of animal carcasses in a butcher's shop near his home in Leytonstone, dominated the artist's first exhibition at Zwemmer's Art Gallery, London in 1956. These paintings also formed the basis of a Royal Academy exhibition in 1979 however it was landscape painting that would subsequently sustain the artist.

In 1990 Coker suffered a stroke, followed by a period of illness that left him almost unable to work. Some years later Coker found some drawings that he had made in Paris in the 1970s. The sight of them released a burst of pent-up creativity. Over the next nine months, he revisited Paris in his imagination, using the drawings as the starting point for ideas that eventually found expression in a variety of different media. This later work expressed the artist’s delight in the affirmative power of colour, line and mark.

Listen to students' responses to Coker's paintings - see Audio links below.

Butchers Shop no.1, 1955 ©Tate 2006

Map link: Zwemmer's Art Gallery, London where Peter Coker held his first exhibition»

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