Unmaking the Modern: The Work of Stanley Anderson

Unmaking the Modern: The Work of Stanley Anderson

Curator Harry Heuser introducing his exhibition Unmaking the Modern at School of Art Museum and Galleries, Aberystwyth University

This exhibition examines the work and world view of the British painter-printmaker Stanley Anderson (1884–1966) through some of the works he produced from the 1910s to the 1950s. 

Anderson was born in Bristol.  For seven years, he trained as a professional engraver in his father’s workshop. He was already in his mid-twenties when he was awarded a scholarship to study printmaking at the Royal College of Art in London. He made a name for himself during the revival of line engraving in 1920s Britain. He also taught etching at Goldsmiths’ College.  By 1941, Anderson was a full member of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Anderson’s work appears to be untouched by modernity. Tradition is his subject: Craftsmen and farm labourers carrying out work that is now performed by machinery. Market scenes and street views that recall the Edwardian age. Rural scenes that have turned into sprawling conurbations.

And yet, Anderson did not retreat into a romanticised past.  He commented on the dramatic changes he observed in British society.  To him, those changes were harmful to the human spirit.  He saw modernity as a return to ‘barbarism in ethics, childish perversity in the arts and baser ambitions in living.’

Anderson demands and rewards our attention.  His humanity is in plain sight.  His anger and dismay must be worked out in careful examination.  There is the devil in some of the detail.

To demonstrate Anderson’s concerns and beliefs, Unmaking the Modern is divided into two main sections: one concentrates on his critique of ‘progress,’ the other on the ‘continuity and harmony’ he sought and found beyond the centres of culture, business and higher education.

About the curator: Harry Heuser is co-author, with Robert Meyrick, of the catalogue raisonné Stanley Anderson: Prints and co-curator of An Abiding Standard: The Prints of Stanley Anderson RA at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 2015.

Installation view, Unmaking the Modern at School of Art Museum and Galleries, Aberystwyth University

Unmaking the Modern was on view from 1 February to 11 March 2016 at the School of Art Museum and Galleries, Aberystwyth University.  It was staged with generous assistance from Neil Holland, Melanie Howard and Robert Meyrick.

Most of the works on display are in private collections, without the support from whose owners this exhibition could not have been mounted.

Gallery talk by curator Harry Heuser, Unmaking the Modern at School of Art Museum and Galleries, Aberystwyth University

All works featured here are reproduced and discussed in the book Stanley Anderson RA. Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné by Robert Meyrick and Harry Heuser (Royal Academy, London, 2015).

For an online archive of Anderson’s prints, visit www.stanleyanderson.co.uk.

Navigating the exhibition

Unmaking the Modern: Stanley Anderson, Critic of Modernity

Unmaking the Modern: Tradition, Not Fashion

Unmaking the Modern: Disasters of the Great War

Unmaking the Modern: What Matters and What Sells

Unmaking the Modern: The Last of Their Kind

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