1936 to 2005
Patrick Caulfield was born in London, but brought up in Bolton in Lancashire until after World War II when the family moved back to London. After leaving school Caulfield worked in the design department of Crosse & Blackwell, (where one of his tasks was varnishing the chocolates on display), followed by three years national service with the Royal Air Force. In 1956 he attended Chelsea School of Art and in 1960 undertook postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Art.
In the early 1960s Caulfield’s painting was characterised by flat images of objects paired with angular geometric devices or isolated against unmodulated areas of colour. He adopted the anonymous technique of the sign painter, dispensing with visible brushwork and distracting detail and simplifying the representation of objects to a basic black outline in order to present ordinary images as emblems of a mysterious reality. He deliberately chose subjects that seemed hackneyed or ambiguous in time: not only traditional genres but selfconsciously exotic and romantic themes and views of ruins and the Mediterranean.
Gradually Caulfield’s attention shifted to the architectural elements to which he had earlier made isolated reference. Caulfield began to insert highly detailed passages in the manner of Photorealism into his characteristically stylised idiom, playing to great effect with ambiguous definitions of reality and artifice. Always a slow and exacting worker, he sustained a high level of pictorial invention. During the 1980s he again turned to a more stripped-down aesthetic, particularly in large paintings in which the precise disposition of only a few identifiable elements miraculously transforms an ostensibly abstract picture through the creation of a vivid sense of place.
He became identified, along with the previous year’s intake (David Hockney, Ron Kitaj, Allen Jones and Derek Boshier) as one of the ‘Pop’ artists. His own interpretation of his work was that “it began as a kind of wholesale reaction against sensitive Slade School English painting which believed that it was bad taste to finish anything”. He chose to re-work and ‘modernise’ the traditional themes of Western Art, such as the Still Life, the interior and the Mediterranean view. His work is marked as much by irony and his delight in the visual cliché as by its clear ‘commercial’ colour and thick black outlines which were, for a time, a hallmark of his style.