When he delivered the A.W.Mellon lectures in Washington D.C. before publishing his Paths to the Absolute in 2000, John Golding described himself simply as ‘painter’. Internationally, he is remembered more widely as an art historian and exhibition maker, whose shows and writings took on major artists and movements of the 20th Century. His Cubism; A History and Analysis (1959) became a classic, and with Sir Alan Bowness, he pioneered teaching and research in 20th Century art history at The Courtauld in the 1960s and ‘70s. He was a painter-writer whose painter’s “obsessions” (as he liked to call them) acted directly on his judgements as a critic-art-historian. This event is juxtaposed with a display of his pastels in The Courtauld Galleries, and will feature the screening of a documentary by award-winning film-maker Bruno Wollheim on Golding the painter. Uniquely Golding taught both at the Courtauld and in the Painting School at the Royal College of Art.
With Sir Alan Bowness, Golding pioneered the serious critical and historical study of 20th Century art history at The Courtauld, bringing to his historical work a visual intelligence that was driven by his painting. His Cubism: A history and analysis, 1907-19 of 1959 is historical with a rigour then new to its subject but the acuity of its ‘analysis’ just as strikingly set it apart. Golding brought together that respect for historical rigour and that painter’s perceptiveness in his art historical writing beyond Paths to the Absolute, as well as in his exhibition making. He opened ways into Duchamp’s Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even, as he did into the earlier Surrealist painting of Miró and Ernst, or the abstract painting of Mondrian and Malevich, Pollock, Rothko and Newman; and, with Elizabeth Cowling, he initiated two memorably important exhibitions, Picasso: Sculptor/Painter (1994) and Matisse Picasso (2002-3). This conference will bring together artists who have responded to Golding the painter with art historians working in several of the fields with which he engaged.
The artists who will contribute include Richard Deacon and Phillip King. From the generation that Golding taught as art historian the speakers will include Dawn Ades, Elizabeth Cowling, John Elderfield (keynote), Christopher Green, John Milner and Sarah Wilson. Other speakers will include Neil Cox, C.F.B.Miller, Gavin Parkinson, Trevor Stark and Michael White.