The Art of Brutalism Rescuing Hope from Catastrophe in 1950s Britain Ben Highmore

Publication date:
06 Jun 2017
Paul Mellon Centre
304 pages: 254 x 190mm
40 color + 110 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

While most famously associated with numerous mid-century architects, Brutalism was a style of visual art that was also adopted by painters, sculptors, printmakers, and photographers. Taking into account Brutalist work by eminent artists such as Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi, as well as lesser-known practitioners like Nigel Henderson  and Magda Cordell , this volume focuses on a ten-year period between 1952 and 1962 when artists refused a programmatic set of aesthetics and began experimenting with images that had no set focal point, using non-traditional materials like bombsite debris in their work, and producing objects that were characterized by wit and energy along with anxiety, trauma, and melancholia. This original study offers insights into how Brutalism enabled British artists of the mid-20th century to respond ethically and aesthetically to the challenges posed by the rise of consumer culture and unbridled technological progress.  

Ben Highmore is professor of cultural studies and a Leverhulme Major Research Fellow at the University of Sussex.

"unusually thought-provoking, and highly recommended." — Timothy Brittain-Catlin, C20 Magazine

"By the end of the book, readers will have gained a complex sense of the historical diversity of brutalist visual culture, having moved well beyond the controversial legacy of postwar social housing." — Giulia Smith, Oxford Art Journal

"[a] magnificent and handsomely illustrated history" — Conor McCafferty, LSE Review of Books blog

"This is a swashbuckling book and its author […] approaches the subject […] in a breezily engaging style." — Anne Massey, The Burlington Magazine

“Substantiated by documentary evidence, sketches and pop culture tidbits, the tome offers an engaging visually rewarding experience that rests on a solid foundation of art history, which helps to thoroughly understand artistic milieus and what informed them.” — Scene Point Blank

The Art of Brutalism is an important publication in terms of both the knowledge of post-war British culture that they expand, and the ‘art-historical’ methods they employ.”—Sam Gathercole, Art History