Victor Pasmore British, 1903-1998

Victor Pasmore was one of the major British artists of his generation. The artist’s pioneering development of abstract art in the 1940s and 1950s is considered to be one of the most important achievements in 20th century British art.


Edwin John Victor Pasmore CH, CBE, RA (1908-1998) studied painting from 1927 at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. After early experiments with abstraction the young Pasmore reverted to naturalistic painting. In 1933 he was elected to the London Artists’ Association, headed by Roger Fry and Duncan Grant. In 1937 Pasmore, Claude Rogers and William Coldstream formed an independent private art school, the Euston Road School. In the late 1930s influenced by the Impressionists, the school contributed towards a revival of naturalism. Characteristic of Pasmore’s work at this time and into the early 1940s were fine female nudes and lyrically sensitive Thames-side landscapes that have been compared to those of Whistler.


Around 1947 and influenced by the artist Ben Nicholson, Pasmore underwent a dramatic conversion. He began to produce his first, pure abstract paintings and later, his constructions which led him to be regarded as one of the leaders of Constructivism in Britain. By the early 1950s Pasmore had developed a personal style of geometrical abstraction. During this period, Pasmore’s paintings were some of the most revolutionary ever seen in Britain. The artist said "I felt the picture has to be an independent object in its own right, not a representation of another object".


Pasmore was an influential teacher and held positions as Director of Painting at Camberwell School of Art and Head of the Department of Painting at King’s College in Durham University as well as lecturing at Harvard University. The ‘basic design’ course he taught at King’s College 1954-61, based on Bauhaus ideas, spread to many British art schools. He was also deeply concerned with bringing abstract art to the general public and in 1954 Pasmore was appointed Consulting Director of Urban Design for Peterlee New Town in Country Durham. In his later career Pasmore was also a prolific printmaker. He won many honours including Honorary degrees from the Royal College of Art and the University of Warwick and was appointed CBE in 1959. He became a Trustee of the Tate Gallery in 1963-4 and was elected a Royal Academician in 1983. Pasmore’s work can be found in major museums and public collections worldwide including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven (both in the USA), The British Council (UK) and Tate Britain and Royal Academy of Arts (both in London).


Victor Pasmore holds a unique place in the canon of British art because his work anticipates and reflects the changes that occurred in art and art practice throughout most of the last century. It was a career that began with lyrical landscapes, that evolved into new pure abstraction, to his experiments with constructivist sculpture and his involvement with town planning. All this made Pasmore one of the foremost exponents and theorists of abstract art. To this day Pasmore’s diverse work remains challenging and relevant.