John Golding: Early Life and Work

by Dawn Ades, Professor Emerita of the History and Theory of Art at the University of Essex


John Golding was one of the great abstract painters of the twentieth century, but is probably more famous as an art historian, critic and curator. He was an eloquent writer on abstract art, and his book on Cubism remains the standard work on the subject. The exhibitions he curated, including Matisse Picasso and Picasso: Sculptor/Painter were revelatory and unrepeatable. But his work as a painter – which is how he wished to be remembered – still awaits full discovery.

Figure 1. John Golding in ‘charro’ costume in the garden at Mexico, c. 1936. Photo courtesy of Michael Johnson

It is particularly appropriate for an exhibition tracing his development and celebrating his achievements as an artist to take place in Mexico, where he grew up and began his career. Three questions have guided what follows here, without necessarily having answers. Firstly, is it possible to trace a path towards abstraction in his own works between c. 1954-1965, comparable to those he brilliantly outlines in his essays on the seven great pioneers of abstract painting? [1] Secondly, what connection is there between his practice and writing as an art historian and his painting in those years? Finally, (but chronologically the earliest) how far did his exposure to art in Mexico – the muralists, the expatriate surrealists and the modernists – influence his development as a painter?

Golding’s Mexican background was very deep, but also quite contradictory in that he had, as he said, no actual Mexican blood. [2] He was born in Hastings, because his mother had temporarily separated from her husband, but was whisked back to Mexico when he was two weeks old. He didn’t return to Europe until 1951. His mother’s was the first British family to come to Mexico, even before the start of the struggle for independence in 1810. Despite the fact that their family had been there for 200 years, Golding’s mother still spoke Spanish with a strong English accent. Originally involved in the linen industry, the family lost its fortune in the Revolution of 1910-17, and following some years of exile in Canada, Golding’s mother and aunt started a school in Mexico City – the first women of their class to work. His father had come out to Mexico in 1919, having served as an under-age soldier at Gallipoli, and eventually became a successful insurance broker. Golding grew up bilingual in Spanish and English, and ascribes a long-lasting sense of dislocation to the fact that he went to both an American school and to a Mexican one, and was taught a subject in the morning by his American teachers and the same subject in the afternoon by his Mexican teachers according to a totally different method. That it did not actually affect his intellectual development is evident as he won scholarships to go to secondary school in Canada and to read Maths at university in Toronto – which he quickly abandoned for a degree in Art and Archaeology.

He loved Mexico, and felt his childhood was happy there. [Fig 1] “Mexico was heavenly as a child because it was still so beautiful and a wonderful city… when I was a child it must have been one of the most beautiful cities in the world…” His early interest in art was encouraged by his parents; his mother gave drawing and music lessons. “In Mexico I’d always lived my life visually and it was a very visually exciting country…” He remembered his great excitement at being given a box of oil paints when he was eight years old: “It was a small, red cardboard box with, I suppose, three brushes and six small tubes of paint.” Among his early paintings are a tender portrait of a woman, probably his mother, and very Mexican subjects, including a fine colonial gateway, either to a churchyard or hacienda, and a portrait of a boy in front of a wall hung with masks.

Figure 2. Photograph of John Golding in Mexican newspapers in February 1960 introducing his book ‘Cubism, A History and an Analysis, 1907-1914’.

There is an unexpected parallel with a photograph of Golding in the Mexican newspapers, in February 1960, which shows him talking about Cubism and introducing his new book in front of a wall of masks and other objects. [Fig 2] Golding’s awareness of and interest in Pre-Columbian America and in surviving indigenous practices and beliefs have parallels with both Picasso’s absorption in African sculpture and with Jackson Pollock’s fascination with First Nation sand painting, but were above all influenced by his immediate context in Mexico and were to have a strong presence in his paintings of the early 1960s. He amassed a collection of Pre-Columbian sculpture and ceramics, such as this head from Veracruz, most of which he gave away. [Fig 3] These precious remains of the former civilisations in Mexico were often brought to the door by indigenous farmers who knew the ancient sites well, wrapped in newspaper.

As a young boy he visited all the great mural schemes in the city including the Riveras in the Ministry of Education and the Orozcos at the National Preparatory School, and met their perpetrators. “My first experience of contemporary art was of the Mexican Mural Movement. Orozco was my greatest source of inspiration and I still believe he is one of the giants of the twentieth century, although his output was so incredibly uneven.” [3] Orozco was the only one, in Golding’s view, of the so-called Tres grandes, the three great ones, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, who pushed painting in new directions. Golding had no time for Rivera’s polemical story-telling.

But in trying to chart the developments in his work in relation to Mexico, to his contemporaries in Mexico and to his research and publications as an art historian we are confronted with contradictions and puzzles, often further confused by the lack of secure dates. The only thing that is clear is that despite his unequalled familiarity with modern art and its sources, and with the discourses around the emergence of abstraction, non-objective art and constructivism, he took his own path in his own time.

The first surprise is connected to his enthusiasm for Orozco, who notoriously distinguished between the nationalism associated with the minor folk arts, with its picturesque indigenist aspect, and the grandeur of mural painting as a higher form of universal art. In 1954 Golding did a series of prints of market scenes, mothers and children, which are much closer to Rivera’s popular subjects, in for example the second floor of the Ministry of Education murals, than to Orozco. Not only that, but, by 1954 Golding had completed his first course at the Courtauld and started his PhD on Cubism, of which there is not a trace. He did return to Mexico in 1953/4, when these prints and drawings presumably were made.

Figure 3. John Golding holding Pre-Columbian Veracruz head sculpture, c. 1953. Photo courtesy of Michael Johnson

The second point picks up the question of the relationship if any between his enthusiasms, research and publications in the fields of Modern art: Cubism and abstraction in particular, with his paintings in the late 50s and early 60s. From the late 1940s he started visiting New York, encountering Picasso and Matisse for the first time – he was stunned by the Demoiselles d’Avignon in Museum of Modern Art, and remembered approvingly the hang of the collection there by Alfred Barr, which was firmly chronological and didactic. He also became aware of the rising stars of the New York Abstract Expressionists including Jackson Pollock and Rothko. Their impact on him was, he suggested, probably due initially to the debt Pollock et al. owed to the muralists, especially Orozco. “Maybe I subsequently responded so strongly to the great revolutionary American abstraction of the 1940s and 1950s because a certain amount of it owed a debt to Mexican art.” [4] But there is little obvious effect on his own paintings at this time, and moreover almost total silence about this period in his later interviews. He would say that the transition to pure abstraction was gradual, [5] and mention extremely briefly the paintings of the early 1960s, which “moved into a very sort of black phase of painting and the figures became increasingly abstracted…”. [6]

After finishing his thesis on Cubism in 1957, he spent almost a year painting in Italy, to which he returned frequently. He was fascinated by Signorelli’s murals in Orvieto, which include astonishing images of nude bodies. The human body, as we shall see, became a persistent theme. [7] His paintings grew looser and at some point, either in Italy or on his return to Mexico, the influence of Orozco became stronger, and the expressionist manner, while still energetic, more contained and purposeful, if grim. It is tempting to regard Golding’s expressionism as a deliberate move to get away as far as possible from the formal syntax of Cubism. But it may just have been the natural continuation of his adoption of Orozco as mentor. A painting from 1959 is an explicit reference to Orozco: Ananias (Homage to Orozco), where the loose handling of the paint, the emphatic modelling of the body and the dominant red and black colours recall Orozco’s murals in the Hospicio Cabañas in Guadalajara, which Golding singled out later as one of his greatest achievements. The 1959 painting Artichokes recalls Orozco’s still life studies, such as Las Colas. In Ananias and in Skeleton the brush strokes of the ribs create an armature of the body, repeated in the bandages. “One of the features of Orozco’s art is the way in which his figures all seem to be in some way flayed; they wear their skeletons on the outside, like armour, although it is an armour that is useless, and he mostly seems to see humanity as doomed.” [8]

Figure 4. Brooklyn Museum 20th Biennial International Watercolour Exhibition catalogue, 1959 Figure 5. AN ANCIENT PLACE, Gunther Gerzso, illustrated in the Brooklyn Museum exhibition catalogue 1959. © John Michael Gerzso 2013

This dark mood pervades his first solo exhibition, at the Galería Diana in Mexico City in 1958, which included Skeleton, Dead Horse, and five paintings of doves, where the feathers are like a softer version of bones. In 1959 he showed two dove paintings at the Brooklyn Museum in a watercolour exhibition of recent work by artists from Canada and Mexico [Fig 4 and 5].

Golding was far more embedded in the newly vitalised artistic world in the Mexico City of the late 1950s and early 1960s than one might gather from his later comments. The dominance of the muralists had been challenged by José Luis Cuevas in his 1956 manifesto, “La Cortina de nopal” (The cactus curtain). Cuevas condemned their blinkered cultural nationalism, which he argued was preventing artists from engaging with new ideas and what was going on internationally. La Ruptura, the break, as this moment was known, inaugurated a public flourishing of experimental, variously modernist work which had an unusual take on the relatively clear-cut divisions between figuration and the different forms of abstraction practiced in Europe and the USA.

Among those who noticed the intense unofficial artistic activity was Antonio Souza, who opened a gallery to show artists, including Cuevas, who were not following the official line of “la escuela mexicana”, (“the Mexican school”) but had found in “abstractionism their form of expression.” As a consequence they were “passed over because they expressed themselves in a manner distinct from the one that the officious bureaucrats of art in Mexico signaled as the only valid one.” [9] Souza opened his gallery with an exhibition of Rufino Tamayo, and his roster of artists included those who made abstraction in some form their central concern, such as Matthias Goeritz, Lilia Carrillo, whose paintings have been described as “lyrical abstraction” – cosmic bursts of colour – and Felguerez, who pursued a more geometric abstraction, and others who drew on it more loosely, like Cuevas or Francisco Toledo, one of the youngest of Souza’s recruits, as well as Golding himself. Several of the small surrealist group, who were independent of the Mexican school anyway, also showed with him.10 Golding was not drawn as an artist to Surrealism, but had already as a teenager been made very welcome by the tiny, quite isolated but intellectually lively community in Mexico City, which included Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Alice Rahon and Gunther Gerzso. “I owed a lot to them and I was very much taken up by them. They were interested in anyone new they could talk to.” [10] Carrington and Gerzso remained lifelong friends. All these artists were among those included in the exhibition Pintura Mexicana Contemporanea de la Galería de Antonio Souza (Contemporary Mexican painting from the Antonio Souza Gallery), at the Instituto de Arte Contemporaneo in Lima in 1961. [Fig 7]

Figure 6. INSTALLATION VIEW of ‘Frink: Bell : Golding Three Aspects of Contemporary Art’ at the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, UK, 1962

Golding was described as a British painter in press releases for his 1961 solo exhibition in the Souza Gallery. He showed fifteen oil paintings, most of which were also in Golding’s first exhibition in England the following year at the Whitworth Art Gallery. [Fig 6] Golding was one of three artists chosen for the annual exhibition of young English artists in Manchester, sharing the space with Elisabeth Frink and Trevor Bell.

These impressive “black” paintings relate both to the free treatment of abstraction, which is one of the hall marks of the Ruptura artists, and to the obsession with a Pre-Columbian America, which Golding shared with the surrealists. There was a perceptive review by Anita Brookner in The Burlington Magazine: Golding’s “large, almost monochrome and slightly cindery canvases project sparse disturbing shapes in grey, black, brown, and red. Totemistic in origin (Golding is an Anglo-Mexican), slightly uncomfortable in appearance, these pictures are very skilfully resolved. They gain at the moment, however, by being viewed en série… The more overtly atavistic ones seemed to me the most successful…” [11]

Desnudo Gris, (Grey Nude), an unusually personal and intimate painting, heralds what he called his “black phase of painting”. [12] Its surface, like that of many of the torsos of 1960/61, is rough and gritty, which came, “technically, from applying sand and gravel to the surfaces; this was partly to combat the gloss and stickiness of the acrylic paint I was then using, but it may also have been an unconscious attempt somehow to emulate the corrosiveness and blackness of Orozco and other Mexican mentors.”[13]

Figure 7. CATALOGUE of artists selected for the exhibition ‘Pintura Mexicana Contemporanea de la Galeria de Antonio Souza’ at the Instituto de Arte Contemporaneo, in Lima, Peru, 1961

Although not serving quite the same purpose, the addition of sand to the picture surface must also relate to Picasso and Braque’s experiments which Golding had closely analysed in his book Cubism. Braque, “always more conscious than Picasso of the actual surface quality of his work”, [14] had introduced sand into his paintings in early 1912, and both then began to add gravel, sand and sawdust to enhance the tactility and material presence of the work. Golding felt a particular affinity for Braque, that became more marked later in his treatment of colour and space in his abstract paintings.

There are two distinct sets of motifs in the black paintings: the body or bodies, and sacred or mythical things/beings. The titles are guides: for the first set, to name a few, Figure, The Couple, Seated Figure, Seated Female Figure, (with variations); for the second, Totem Group, Fetish, Mexican Stele (Homage to Gerzso) and Le Transparent (El Transparente). (There was more than one version of the latter, and also a “Grand Transparent” [15] (Large Transparent)). With the exception of Figure (1961) [cover image], the torsos, seated figures and couples are headless. When Richard Wollheim asked Golding about the subject matter of these pictures, he replied:

“The majority of my early single figure pieces were male. Half the torso pieces of the 1960s were in fact female, although male and female were sometimes couples. But there came a time when I realised that in my work I was somewhat desperately trying to find a compromise between a male and a female body.” [16]

In both the paintings and the drawings and ink sketches of the early 1960s bodies are ambiguous but often appear to have female characteristics; most are torsos, in other words, headless. [17] In the paintings the upper body, which is often the focus, becomes increasingly bulbous, curvilinear and smooth round the opening where a head should be, like a large ceramic pot, and in Figure Study (Blue + Orange) (1963) even has an incipient handle. A curious echo with a gourd-like bronze from Mathias Goeritz’s series Open Mind and Empty Head is probably completely fortuitous, but does prompt the idea that the uneasy visual metaphors in the bodies often involve a contrast between animate and inanimate, the realm of the uncanny.

The two sets of motifs are permeable: figures and “totem” images intersect. The torso/vessel appears again in Small Totem Group, 1962, now with feathers or liquid spurting from openings.

Later discussions about these works focus understandably on the body, to the exclusion of the other side of Golding’s painting at the time: the totem and indigenist references – which perhaps he wanted to escape from, or simply felt were too remote from his life in London. It’s impossible to know why Golding chose the term “totem” (symbol, ancestor figure, sacred object). Perhaps it was a way of distancing himself from the very immediate and painful anxiety about the body, to which he refers in his acute essay about Gerzso’s painting, in terms that relate closely to his own work: the way painting can be a metaphor for the “desire for the dark recesses of the body.” Golding describes the way Gerzso could create a pictorial space that both acknowledged the “insistence on flatness, on the integrity of the picture plane”, and also “evoke sensations which could suggest or stand for both the hidden recesses of the human mind and the cavities and more secret places of the human body.” [18] His understanding of Gerzso’s responses to Cubism illuminates his own paintings of the early 1960s. In light of this, the dark paintings can be seen as a unique engagement with the radical treatment of light and space in the cubist paintings of Braque and Picasso c. 1910-12. As in Cubism, “the pictorial surface is organised both in terms of a linear armature and simultaneously by the arbitrary or intuitive juxtapositions of lights against darks…” [19] Both Gerzso and Golding have responded, in individual ways – more deeply buried in Golding’s paintings – to Cubism’s creation of completely new pictorial sensations, its re-invention of “the language and syntax of painting”, that led to but were not in themselves abstract. It is not surprising to learn that Gerzso was the artist to whom Golding was closest in Mexico, and with whom he spoke most openly about painting. “You always write that you miss our talks. Believe me I miss them more than you. But I find it strange that you don’t seem to find anyone in London you can talk to about painting as we did.” [20]

The totem theme is linked to Surrealism. Golding would have been familiar with Wolfgang Paalen’s magazine Dyn, produced in Mexico between 1942 and 1944, where Paalen’s essays on the “Paysage Totemique”, and on “Totem Art” sit beside his defence of abstraction and argument that the vital function of art is to reconcile reason and the imagination.

Paalen travelled through the “totem landscapes” of the North West Coast, and his essays are as much about the forests as about the carved poles which commemorated ancestors, honoured the presiding symbol/guardian spirit of the tribe, and guarded the home.

Golding’s reply to Wollheim’s question about subject matter directs the conversation towards the body and away from Wollheim’s curiosity about the mysterious character of these paintings. He was fascinated by the role of light in their blackness, as fragments, edges or feathers flare in sudden flashes of light: “In the early work [mystery] is never far away from terror, and the terror in turn comes from the penetration of the body by light…” [21]

While Wollheim is still essentially talking about the mystery of the body, the way the light “drives its way through the body”, the mystery and the terror he perceived are also very present in the totem and fetish paintings, especially when linked to a possible third set of motifs – that is the geometric, planar forms that are often the setting for a body, such as the window or embrasure in Figure (1961). In Small Totem Group, the architectural rectangle separates the “totem-body” from the black void behind, but light filters along the edges and through the peep-hole, as if it is a screen hiding the powerful object within or excluding it from a sanctuary.

Intriguing from this point of view is the grand painting Figures in a Landscape; a tripartite composition with two of these slab shapes, with their miniature openings, flanking a very early appearance of the flowing, vertical abstract lines characteristic of Golding’s later abstractions. The two architectural/abstract rectangles hover against a fiery red and black ground, which then merges with the vertical lines, which in turn act like curtains about to close the scene. In this way of looking, the sharp diagonal lines shooting out from the right-hand rectangle create an incipient perspectival space, which is then cancelled. In other words, this painting could be approached as a sophisticated meditation on abstraction: plane, surface, ground.

The peepholes resemble those in paintings by Gerzso, such as An Ancient Place, [22] where they open onto darkness. Gerzso once said to the art historian Rita Eder: “When you try to look into one of my paintings you’ll always run into a wall that keeps you from going any further. It will stop you with the brilliance of its light, but at the back there’s a black plane: it’s fear.” [23] What is so striking here is the double edge to Gerzso’s comment – “the wall” is both the flatness of the picture plane of abstract art – the canvas surface – and the walls of the ancient Mayan stone structures that he often refers to in his titles.

There is a strong sense of a presence or presences in Figures in a Landscape, as there is in Gerzso’s paintings, which may relate to the tensions between the Amerindian world and modernism. As Gerzso put it: “I use the forms of this continent from remote times to the present, but I express them through European media, as most Latin American artists do.” [24] Neither artist drew directly on Pre-Columbian, indigenous or First Nation imagery, but their paintings are haunted by an awareness of this world. The titles of two paintings Golding showed at the Whitworth, for instance, Mexican Stele (Homage to Gerzso) and Red Stele refer to the carved Mayan stones with inscriptions (at that time undeciphered).

The central black object in Le Transparent hints at a face, a headdress, a mask, carried atop a staff like a trophy or an offering in a ritual. The title El Transparente may well have been inspired by Carlos Fuentes’ 1958 novel La región mas transparente. Carlos Fuentes imagined phantoms Ixca Cienfuegos and Teodula Moctezuma prowling an indigenous underground “in hopes of invading the ‘most transparent’ region of the modern metropolis in order to resuscitate old rites and Pre-Columbian powers.” [25] “Those who came can come,” says Teódula Moctezuma to his son, “those who took away our things and made us forget the signs, but below the earth, down there, son, in those dark places where their feet can’t trample on us, down there everything is still the same…” [26] In The Labyrinth of Solitude, Octavio Paz analysed the way the past haunted Mexico: “We …struggle against imaginary entities, vestiges of the past that we have engendered. Those ghosts and vestiges are real, at least for us…They originated in the Conquest, the Colony”. [27]

Two other versions of Le Transparent [Fig 18] loosened the central object, suggesting forms such as a swathed head and a wicker cage, but are basically ambiguous. The tension between a recognisable subject and the abstract is very strong and there are visual similarities with the small Untitled paintings. They are clearly about something, “equivalents of profoundly experienced emotional and intellectual sensations but which encapsulate and symbolize them in a pictorial language which is almost completely non-referential.” [28]

After the Whitworth exhibition, there seem to be no, or at least very few, surviving paintings until 1965. This period, as the correspondence with Gerzso confirms, was bleak for John: “I know this painting business is rather awful, but I don’t think it is worth getting physically ill about it. Maybe it is the content of your painting that depresses you so and not just painting. I don’t know how you paint now – but your dark and tragic figures, surrounded by more blackness are probably hard to force all of the time.” [29] The tension, mystery and anxiety are palpable in the black paintings, and when Golding realized what he was doing, in terms of finding a compromise between the male and female body, as he told Wollheim, he turned his back on it “because I am not interested in art as self-discovery or therapy.” [30] Maybe he also wanted to turn his back on any connection with the powerfully expressive and personal paintings of Francis Bacon, and that helped to propel him towards hard-edge abstraction. [31]

He seems to have destroyed most of his paintings, but had started etching again, and showed them at the Bear Lane Gallery in Oxford in March 1964. “Your new etching technique sounds exciting”, Gerzso wrote to him, “I’ll try it too – if I may? I am very happy that your etchings were a great success and I feel very flattered that they have a lot of me in them, as you write.” [32] The etchings were experimental and appear to have involved a certain amount of chance gesture, the surfaces covered with dense, fine lines of different textures, sometimes using colour.

The only securely dated works before the first hard-edge abstract paintings of 1965 are a group of highly unusual collages of 1964 and 64-65 that were never exhibited, but constructed with great care from a variety of Golding’s own black and white prints. They have little or nothing visibly in common with cubist papiers collés. Mostly they seem to be in dialogue with the crayon drawings of c. 1960. These, unlike the extraordinary series of charcoal drawings of the male torso which is progressively obliterated by a web of black lines [33] , are relatively crisply delineated, slightly sinister bodies, sometimes single, sometimes in pairs or trios, often headless, sometimes wearing body armour or corsets. They are mostly ambiguous as to gender though some have clearly female features. Immediately noticeable in the collages is the sharp separation between the fragments, which refer to bodies, sometimes to masks or idols. How far the desire is to make the image abstract or to construct alternative beings, independent configurations, is impossible to say. Some look almost like fragments of a giant jigsaw puzzle which can never be put together. But rather than resembling a game, there is something angry about them, a kind of vengeance. A compulsion similar to that which drove the black paintings, and in which the urge to abstraction is not necessarily the prime driver, is evident. They are in some way the final episode in Golding’s contribution to the uniquely heterogeneous responses of artists in Mexico to the imperatives of European abstraction.

They do not lead naturally to the hard-edge, flat colour paintings that take over in 1965. This must be one of the strangest transitions to abstraction in modern art.

But it now seems to me that it was not really a progression towards abstraction but the final acceptance of an origin in thinking visually about form and meaning which turned out to have an enormously positive and productive sequel for Golding. It is as though Malevich’s Black Square, as the end and the beginning of everything, interposed itself. In Golding’s lectures on abstraction, Paths to the Absolute, he contrasts Mondrian’s way into abstraction, inspired by sensations about the Dutch landscape, with Malevich who “achieved abstraction through his apprehension of the human body.” This route would be much closer to Golding’s, and it is as if Malevich allowed a short cut through what had become a highly convoluted if experimentally rich area of investigation for Golding. It starts with the square, simplest and most basic of forms, “completely self-contained and secret in the perfection of its symmetry.” [34]



1 John Golding Paths to the Absolute: Mondrian, Malevich, Kandinsky, Pollock, Newman, Rothko, Still Thames & Hudson 2000.
2 In the invaluable interviews with Elizabeth Cowling for the Artists’ Lives collection, which took place in March and April 1995, he speaks at length about his family and upbringing
in Mexico.
3 “From Mexico to Venice: Postscript: Interview with Richard Wollheim” in John Golding Visions of the Modern T&H 1994, p. 338.
4 Wollheim, p. 339.
5 Artists’ Lives Interview.
6 Artists’ Lives interview.
7 See “Only human”, John Golding The Mayor Gallery 2021 and “John Golding’s Early Paintings and Modern art in Mexico” John Golding Ridinghouse 2017.
8 Wollheim, p. 338.
9 Socorro García “La Galería de Antonio Souza: una lección a los burócratas del arte” (1958). I am grateful to Alondra Ruiz-Hernandez for drawing my attention to this article, from the archive of the Documents of Latin American and Latino Art at the MFA, Houston. Siqueiros had notoriously stated that “There is no way but ours”,
10 Artists’ Lives Interview. I discuss the surrealist group in Mexico in relation to Golding in more detail in “John Golding’s Early Paintings and Modern Art in Mexico”, John Golding, Ridinghouse 2017. Some relevant material from that essay is included again here.
11 A.B. (Anita Brookner), “Manchester”, in “Current and forthcoming exhibitions”, The Burlington Magazine vol 104, issue 709, April 1962, p. 177.
12 Dating of Desnudo Gris is uncertain. As John said in his Artists’ Lives Interview, “I’m a bit confused about my own chronology”. It is dated on the back 1957, but John mentions painting it in Mexico, between finishing the thesis and starting teaching at the Courtauld, while correcting the proofs for his book which came out at the end of 1959
13 Wollheim, p.339.
14 John Golding Cubism: a History and
Analysis 1907-1914 (1959), Faber 1971, p.84
15 I have taken titles from the 1961 Whitworth exhibition catalogue and from a collection of black and white photographs of paintings and bronzes of this period, possibly documenting works available for the exhibition.
16 Wollheim, p. 337.
17 Golding titled one of his black
period paintings La Femme 100 têtes, (the woman without a head, or the hundred-headed woman) after Max Ernst’s collage-novel, perhaps in an ironic spirit.
18 John Golding “Gunther Gerzso and the Landscape of the mind” Gerzso Editions du Griffon, 1983, p. 17.
19 Ibid, p. 16.
20 Letter from Gerzso, 17 June 1963.
21 Wollheim, pp. 336-7.
22 An Ancient Place was exhibited at the same time as John’s Doves at Brooklyn in 1958.
23 Quoted in Cuauhtémoc Medina “Gerzso and the Indo-American Gothic: From Eccentric Surrealism to Parallel Modernism” in Diana C. Dupont Risking the Abstract: Mexican Modernism and the Art of Gunther Gerzso Santa Barbara Museum of Art 2003, p.195.
24 “Gerzso on Gerzso” (1976) quoted in Cuauhtémoc Medina “Gerzso and the Indo-American Gothic: From Eccentric Surrealism to Parallel Modernism”, ibid, p.211.
25 Cuauhtémoc Medina makes this connection in “Gerzso and the Indo-American Gothic: From Eccentric Surrealism to Parallel Modernism” op cit., p. 212.
26 La región mas transparente quoted in Medina op. cit. p. 213.
27 Octavio Paz El laberinto de la soledad 1950, p.79. Quoted in Medina op. cit., p. 213 (The Labyrinth of Solitude Translated by Lysander Kemp, Grove Press Inc, N.Y., Evergreen Books Ltd London 1961). Octavio Paz El laberinto de la soledad
28 “Gunther Gerzso and the Landscape of the mind” Gerzso, p. 14.
29 Gerzso letter to JG 14 December 1963.
30 Wollheim, p. 337.
31 See Artists’ Lives Interview for discussion of Bacon, whom John Golding knew well. I am grateful to Elizabeth Cowling for this idea, in conversation with the author.
32 Letter to Golding 6 May 1964.
33 See the exhibition catalogue John Golding: Only Human, The Mayor Gallery 2021.
34 Gerzso, p. 20.

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