A Sculptor of whose times? The Art and Politics of Peter Laszlo Peri
- Henry Moore Institute
- Wednesday, 27 June 2018
- Lecture by Dr Gordon Johnston in the Institute's seminar room, starting at 6pm
Installation view of The Sculpture Collections showing Peter Peri's 'Bust of Mr Thomas / Dockyard worker' (c. 1940) Courtesy Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery) and the estate of the artist. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones
Installation view of The Sculpture Collections showing Peter Peri's 'Bust of Mr Thomas / Dockyard worker' (c. 1940)
Courtesy Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery) and the estate of the artist. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones
The sculptor Peter Laszlo Peri was born in Budapest in 1899, lived in Berlin in the 1920s (where he exhibited with László Moholy-Nagy), and emigrated to Britain in the 1930s. His emigré status was a direct result of his communist politics and Jewish parentage.
As well as crossing national boundaries, Peri’s work also ranged aesthetically from abstraction and constructivism to the realism and humanism of his large figurative public sculptures of the 1950s. His early work was acclaimed in continental Europe as part of the inter-war avant-garde.
Yet Peri’s commitment to realism meant that his approach was seen as distinctly unfashionable in post-war Britain – as ‘”all wrong” for the time’ – and, with the exception of art critic and polymath John Berger, his work attracted little interest in the UK until comparatively recently.
This talk will reassess Peri’s contribution, unravelling what initially seem to be contradictions in his story, and showing that his work is best understood in terms of the close relationship between his artistic and political trajectories.
Dr Gordon Johnston is an Honorary Fellow in the School of History, Classics & Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, and a former Head of the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University. His essay ‘Art, political commitment and reputation in 20th-century Europe: the case of Peter László Péri (1899-1967)’ appeared in the British Art Journal in 2013, and he has researched widely on the relationship between politics, culture and the arts in post-war Europe. He is an editor of the journal Social History.