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Talk | Greyscale and Colour in Post-War Britain

Henry Moore Institute
Event organized by Henry Moore Institute

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In this lecture, Lynda Nead describes the dialogue between black and white media and colour in the post-war period. In the years immediately following the end of the Second World War, Britain was visualised as a grey nation, with the greyscale of smoke and fog, emphasised in the bombed landscapes of industrial cities.

If austerity Britain was defined through a deep and expressive imagery of greyness, then modernity and reconstruction were understood in terms of a return to colour. The historical significance of colour in this period is very considerable; it was not only modern and innovative, it was also wayward and troubling.

Drawing on the visual arts, advertising, design and fashion, this lecture considers just what was at stake in the return to colour and the rich symbolism of post-war hues.

Lynda Nead is Pevsner Professor of History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London. She has published widely on nineteenth and twentieth-century British art and culture, including her most recent book The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Post-War Britain (Yale University Press for Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2017). She is a Trustee of the V&A and a sits on the Blue Plaques Panel for English Heritage and the Advisory Panel of the Museum of London.