Deanna Petherbridge obituary


Deanna Petherbridge, who has died aged 84, was the prime instance of an artist broadly celebrated inside her discipline however relatively much less well-known exterior it.

Largely, this was due to her chosen manner of creating. In a time when style known as for eclecticism in artwork – the Younger British Artists would possibly transfer forwards and backwards between video, idea, ceramics and paint – Petherbridge caught firmly to a single medium. That medium, too, appeared nearly wilfully old school.

“I did do relatively giant expressionist work after I first got here to London,” she recalled in an interview in Studio Worldwide in 2017. “There was lots of gory anti-Vietnam work, and a few smooth sculpture.” By the center of the Sixties, although, she had settled on a profession in drawing.

Measurement was one of the placing issues about her work. In distinction to her personal diminutive stature, Petherbridge labored on a monumental scale.

Starting with Piranesi-esque views of the flat-roofed, white-walled streets of the Greek island the place she had a studio, her work advanced into big drawings such because the five-panel Concrete Armada (1978). Twin pursuits in structure and journey added geometric components of Islamic and Hindu constructing to her repertoire.

Within the Eighties, appalled by the Falklands warfare, Petherbridge additionally took as an everyday topic the razing of structure. This culminated in The Destruction of the Metropolis of Homs, exhibited in a solo present on the Whitworth Artwork Gallery in Manchester in 2016-17 and now within the Tate assortment.

A triptych in ink and wash on paper, 106cm excessive by 228cm broad, The Destruction of the Metropolis of Homs reveals the titular metropolis after the ravages of the Syrian civil warfare. Half expressionist and half vorticist in temper, it’s a meditation on what Petherbridge known as “urbicide”. Like most of her work, it’s empty of individuals.

Its imagery is taken not from up to date sources however from the artist’s thoughts. “{A photograph} of the bombed-out shell of Dresden, destroyed in February 1945 after I was six years previous, has lived potently in my lifelong reminiscence financial institution,” Petherbridge mentioned.

If pacifism offered one stimulus for her work, feminism provided one other. This discovered its most memorable expression in Witches and Depraved Our bodies, an exhibition she curated on the Scottish Nationwide Gallery of Fashionable Artwork in 2013, which then travelled to the British Museum.

Beginning with the engraving of a goat-born harpy by Albrecht Dürer (1501) and continuing through Goya’s Los Caprichos, it examined the best way wherein 500 years of predominantly male artists had portrayed witches both as menacingly younger and alluring or as previous and repulsive. Stored from financial and political energy, a witch, as Petherbridge tartly famous, “was evil as a result of she was envious”.

“I’m one of many previous hags myself,” she informed a cheering viewers on the Institute of Modern Arts in London in 2015. Witches and Depraved Our bodies, and its accompanying ebook, had been deeply scholarly, however they had been enlivened by a deadpan puckishness that marked a lot of Petherbridge’s work.

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Deanna Petherbridge instructing on the Courtauld’s summer season college in 2015. {Photograph}: Benedict Johnson

Born in Pretoria, South Africa, to Frieda (nee Goldberg), an artwork scholar turned housewife, and Harry Schwarz, a lawyer, Deanna studied high quality arts on the College of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Discovering apartheid abhorrent, she left for Britain in 1960. “In South Africa at the moment there was a big graphic emphasis,” Petherbridge mentioned. “I had come from a rustic with immense poverty and discrimination. Drawing is a mind-set visually at a democratic degree. It’s the poor particular person’s manner of inventing.”

It was additionally straightforward to maneuver. In need of cash herself, in 1967 she took herself off to the island of Sikinos within the Cyclades, the place she was to maintain a studio and spend intervals of time for the following three many years. (This studio was adopted, in later life, by one other in Umbria.) There, she started to attract. “I found that pen and ink was extra moveable and have caught with all of it my life, actually,” she mentioned. “Even giant drawings like mine might be rolled up and carried over the shoulder.”

After a short early marriage, she was in a relationship with Man Petherbridge, whose identify she adopted.

Within the UK, after lecturing on high quality artwork at Studying College after which Middlesex Polytechnic (now College) within the Eighties, she was appointed professor of drawing on the Royal Faculty of Artwork in 1995. There, she launched the Centre for Drawing Analysis, the primary doctoral programme of its variety in Britain. She was an honorary fellow of the Warburg Institute, and analysis fellow at each Yale College (2007) and the Getty Middle in Los Angeles (2001-02); and was, in 1996, made a CBE. Petherbridge’s ebook The Primacy of Drawing: Histories and Theories of Apply, revealed in 2010, stays a regular textual content on the topic. It additionally helped spur a revival of curiosity amongst up to date artists, amongst them Tracey Emin.

Petherbridge is survived by two sisters and a brother, and by seven nephews and nieces.


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