A new exhibition at Knowsley’s Kirkby Galley aims to celebrate the work of four major artists who lived and worked in Liverpool from the 1960s and whose legacy lives on today.

The four influential figures of the Merseyside art scene are John Baum (b. 1942), Maurice Cockrill (1936 -2013), Adrian Henri (1932 -2000), and Sam Walsh (1934–1989). The exhibition celebrates the work and friendship of the group who helped to put Merseyside on the cultural map. It is the first exhibition of its kind to tell the story of these four artists and their practice during the 1970s. 

The Likeness of Things presents work from the artists’ estates and from private collections but, significantly, will also display work from regional public art galleries and collections, including the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum on the Wirral, The Atkinson in Southport, Liverpool John Moores University and Liverpool University’s Victoria Gallery & Museum.

All four artists began teaching at Liverpool Art College in the 1960s though they had come to the city from different places. Baum had studied at the Slade School of Art in London, Cockrill at Reading, Henri at Durham University and Walsh at Dublin College of Art.

Although each artist developed different approaches and styles in the 1960s, throughout the 1970s they were often exhibited together under the banner of ‘realism’ in the UK and abroad. During that decade, they concentrated on what Baum called “the likeness of things”, depicting people, objects and places in a clear crisp manner sometimes described as photorealist, in reference to the movement then evolving in the US.

The exhibition revisits that work of the 1970s when, with apparent emotional detachment, Baum, Cockrill, Henri and Walsh reappropriated traditional genres like portrait, landscape and still-life painting, and gave them a resolutely contemporary twist.

Main image: (L to R) Sam Walsh, Arthur Ballard, Jim Weston, Peter Mousdale, John Baum, Maurice Cockrill. Taken in Colomendy, Wales. (thanks to Colin Simpson)

The Likeness of Things: Baum – Cockrill – Henri – Walsh is at Prescot Museum & Kirkby Gallery in Knowsley, Liverpool from May 10 until July 16, 2022.

The exhibition is curated by Catherine Marcangeli, estate of Adrian Henri, and senior lecturer in art history, Paris-Cité University. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue written by Marcangeli. RRP £10.