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The Likeness of Things brings fab four Liverpool artists to Kirkby

A major new exhibition which draws together the work of a quartet of key 20th Century Liverpool artists for the first time in 40 years has been opened in Kirkby.

The Likeness of Things, at Kirkby Gallery until July 16, focuses on the work of Maurice Cockrill, Sam Walsh, John Baum and Adrian Henri and has been curated by Henri’s long-term partner Catherine Marcangeli.

It is the first exhibition of its kind to tell the story of the four men and their artistic practice, celebrating both their work and their friendships.

And it forms part of Knowsley’s Borough of Culture celebrations which continue through 2022.

Artworks have been drawn together from across the city region including from collections held at the Walker Art Gallery, Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead, The Atkinson at Southport, the Victoria Gallery & Museum and Liverpool John Moores University as well as from private lenders and the artists’ own collections.

All four artists started teaching at Liverpool Art College in the 1960s, though they had arrived in the city from different places.

John Baum, now 80, whose canvasses are filled with light, had recently graduated from the Slade and had undertaken a postgrad degree at the University of London when, he recalls, he heard about a vacancy at the college via his cousin whose father was on the board of trustees. He went on to spend more than two decades in the city.

Meanwhile the four men quickly became friends and collaborated in the busy art scene of 60s Liverpool.

But while each developed different artistic styles, their work was often exhibited together at home and abroad – including at the Walker, and at the Liverpool Academy which had been revived in the 1950s by Arthur Ballard – and they shared influences like hyperrealism.

The exhibition concentrates on their work from 1967 to 1977 when they brought a contemporary twist including manipulated photo-realism to traditional artistic genres like portrait, landscape and still life painting.

Catherine Marcangeli says: “I became intrigued reading about the 1970s because I knew they were friends, but I hadn’t realised they had really been seen as a group. Through the 70s they were very often exhibited as the Liverpool Realists.

“It wasn’t the scene from the 60s but it grew out of the Liverpool Scene and a lot of collaborative exchanges in Liverpool in the 60s.

“John says Liverpool was a very stimulating place to be. Even though you weren’t doing the same thing you were stimulated by the sharing of ideas that was going on.”

Above: Catherine Marcangeli and artist John Baum in the exhibition. Top: John Baum's Five Girls on the Steps of the Art College.

Highlights include Baum’s Five Girls on the Steps of the Art College (1973); Cockrill’s large scale Two Windows, Two People (1972-3) which was displayed at the Liverpool Academy’s Communication exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery and Scillonian Pumps (1974) which is usually kept rolled up in storage at The Atkinson; Henri’s prizewinning Painting I (1972) which was added to weekly when he bought another piece of meat from the butcher’s, and Walsh’s Portrait of Ivon Hitchens (1974) and Indianapolis Love Story (c.1967) as well as a selection of works that haven’t been on public display for more than 40 years.

The Likeness of Things is at the Kirkby Gallery until July 16.


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