The University of London Art Collection: Senate House Highlights
The University of London has a significant collection of art, most of which is located in Senate House, the institutes of the School of Advanced Study, and Senate House Library. The collection includes more than 300 separate artworks, ranging from modern abstract paintings to 100-year-old sketches and artefacts from antiquity.
Much of the modern art held at Senate House is a part of the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) Art Collection. The CNAA was the largest single degree-awarding body in the UK before it was abolished by the 1992 UK Further and Higher Education Act. The CNAA collection was relocated to the University of London in 2010 due to the University's connections with several prestigious art institutions and the suitability of Senate House for displaying these works.
Other pieces of art, including sketches, drawings, watercolours, and engravings, are part of the University’s extensive Archives.
Below you'll find brief descriptions of ten especially striking artworks on display at Senate House.
'Simplified Faces, I' (1973) - David Hockney
David Hockney is widely considered one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.
Two of his works are on display at Senate house: ‘Simplified Faces, I & II’. These lithograph prints were created 20 years after Hockney created his first lithographs in Bradford. If you look closely, you'll see that the shapes are labelled incorrectly.
Compared with his other artworks, these prints exemplify the variety of media and styles Hockney used in his work.
Study for 'Entice 1, 1974' - Bridget Riley
Bridget Riley studied at member institution Goldsmiths from 1949 to 1952, 22 years before she produced this hypnotising gouache painting now held at Senate House.
Riley often uses optical phenomena in her art that produce a disorienting visual effect on the viewer. This type of artwork came to be known as ‘Op-Art’ and was a symbol of 'Swinging Sixties' culture. Stare and squint at the painting and watch it move.
'Pastorale' (1969) - Barbara Hepworth
Barbara Hepworth was an internationally renowned sculptor and painter and an important figure in the history of abstract and modernist art in Britain.
Hepworth previously received honorary degrees from the University of London in recognition of her creative endeavours and contribution to literature and the arts. She was presented with the award by the then-Chancellor Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother at Foundation Day on 26 November 1970.
'Köln' (1971) - Michael Tyzack
Award-winning British-born painter Michael Tyzack was a student at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. He was taught by important UK-based artists such as Lucian Freud, William Coldstream, and William Townsend.
Tyzack left the UK in the 1970s to teach in the United States, where he remained until his death in 2007. His large diamond-shaped oil painting 'Köln' is one of many featured in public collections worldwide. Around the time he produced this piece, Tyzack also worked as a professional jazz trumpeter.
'Portrait of Geoffrey Chaucer' (eighteenth century) – Unknown artist
This oil painting of the ‘father of English poetry’ Geoffrey Chaucer is one of 17 portraits of British literary figures held at Senate House Library that were collected by the eighteenth-century politician Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773).
The author of The Canterbury Tales sits among other prominent figures from the British literary canon such as Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, and Edmund Spenser.
Six of the Chesterfield Portraits hang in the Sterling Library at SHL and the remainder are in the adjoining Paleography Room. The painter of the portraits is unknown and like some of the other Chesterfield Portraits, it is likely a copy.
'Vertical Excavation' (1983) - Nigel Hall
Nigel Hall is an internationally recognised British sculptor and draughtsman. His sculptures are held by several universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.
This aluminium structure hangs on a wall near the entrance to Deller Hall café on the Lower Ground Floor of Senate House.
'Lapwing No. 2' (1974) - Knighton Hosking
This acrylic painting by Knighton Hosking appears to be abstract, but on closer inspection it reveals a barren landscape under an angry sky. Information from the CNAA collection explains that Hosking drew it partly from photographs.
A lapwing is a bird found in northern Europe. The interlacing geometric shapes at the centre of the painting give the impression of wings while also suggesting movement.
Chance and Order Series (1971) - Kenneth Martin
This series of prints was produced towards the end of Kenneth Martin’s life. They were designed using an ordered process of placing dots on a grid that was disrupted by randomly connecting those dots to create intersecting lines.
Martin is often considered one of the fathers of British Constructivist Art. He was trained in the realist tradition of Walter Sickert but shifted towards abstraction in the late 1940s.
Shown here is one of the five prints from the series that hang in Senate House.
'Portrait of a Gentlemen' (1922) - Gilbert Spencer
British painter Gilbert Spencer has a number of connections to the University of London. Like Michael Tyzack, he was a student at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.
During the Second World War, Spencer worked as a war artist. The ‘War Artists’ were a select group of fine artists organised by the Ministry of Information, which was headquartered at Senate House at the time. He was the younger brother of the painter and war artist Stanley Spencer.
His connection to the University of London endures through this pencil portrait of a gentleman that greets diners in Deller Hall Café.
'Small Bal Masque 5' (1981) - Andrew Yates
Andrew Yates produced a series of gouache paintings in the early 1980s called Small Bal Masque, of which Senate House is home to three. The geometric shapes in these paintings appear to explode from the canvas. There is an apparent connection to the work of Kenneth Martin, another artist featured in the CNAA collection.