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The final two prints, Red Leaves (1989) and The Garden II (1990) are purely decorative virtuoso pieces with Bottega Veneta Zip Clutch
a Matisse like celebration of vibrant colour.
Michael Rothenstein: A Centenary Exhibition is at Birmingham Museum Art Gallery until April 19 (Mon Thur, Sat 10am 5pm, Fri 10.30am 5pm, Sun 12.30pm 5pm; admission free).
village of Great Bardfield.
By the time Marilyn Monroe appears in a print, Marilyn I (Pink Version) in 1978, the novelty of Pop imagery is wearing thin, and now there is another stylistic break, with Rothenstein turning to hand drawn, figurative woodcuts in the mid 1980s. Again, he was in step with the zeitgeist this was the era of the renaissance in expressive figurative painting.
It is tempting to see in this personal history some kind of explanation for the fact that when his work was at its most vibrant and experimental, in the 1960s, he was working in a style associated with artists considerably younger than himself.
Moving into the 1970s, and now working with collaged newspaper imagery and pure photo silkscreen, Rothenstein takes on a political dimension for the first time by referencing the Northern Ireland troubles with Belfast (1973) and The Price Sisters (1974). Marian and Dolours Price were IRA bombers who were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1973 but released in 1980.
But at the age of 40 he suddenly underwent a rebirth which coincided with a shift of emphasis from Guess Patent Leather Wallet painting to printmaking.
Three years before his death in 1993, the printmaker Michael Rothenstein made a generous gift of his work to Birmingham Museum Art Gallery.
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In these prints Rothenstein, already by now in his early 60s, seems to connect with the psychedelic imagery of the 60s counter culture.
However, Cockerel on a Telegraph Pole, a lithograph from 1950, belongs more to the pale coloured British illustrative tradition associated with artists like Edward Bawden, Rothenstein's neighbour in the Essex Balenciaga Giant Gold Card Case
This extensive collection of work by one of the mid to late 20th century's most energetic printmakers has since been made even more comprehensive by gifts added by his widow in 1998 and 2005.
Throughout the various stylistic shifts, the cockerel, an image apparently fixed in Rothenstein's childhood when his family moved to the countryside, is a recurring motif. It even turns up against the Manhattan skyline in New York City (1974).
It is striking how Rothenstein's work adapted, chameleon like, to the prevailing styles of successive decades without ever sacrificing its craftsmanlike integrity.
Rothenstein's career took an unusual course. Although it began in the late 1920s and 1930s, it got off to a slow start because Rothenstein suffered from myxedema, a thyroid disease which gave rise to depression.
Whereas his exact contemporary Victor Pasmore famously abandoned Euston Road style realism for hardline abstraction at the end of the 1940s, Rothenstein followed a markedly different trajectory.
drawing of farm machinery from this time suggests a point of departure in a mix of Picasso and Surrealism, rather similar to the early drawings by the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, who was to be another major British printmaker of the 60s.
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