Sandra Blow R. A. (1925 - 2006)
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Holly abstract by Sandra Blow
Holly abstract. 2001


Sandra Blow, was a painter and teacher. She studied at St Martin's School of Art 1941 - 1946, Royal Academy Schools 1946 -1947 and subsequently at the Academy of Fine Arts, Rome from 1947 - 1948. She travelled to Italy where she met Alberto Burri whose style of using low-grade materials was later adapted by Blow. She was appointed Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art in 1973. Blow taught at the Painting School, Royal College of Art 1961-75 and was elected to the RA in 1978.

During the 1950s, Sandra Blow was one of the pioneering abstract painters who introduced into British art a new expressive informality, using cheap, discarded materials such as sawdust, sackcloth and plaster alongside the more familiar material of paint. A tactile as well as visual emphasis on surface resulted in powerful and complex images. Later, in response to the optimistic climate of the 1960s, Blow's palette lightened and for most of the rest of her career, easily manipulated collage materials, like torn paper or brightly coloured canvas cut-outs, littered her often large-scale pictures. The Matisse-inspired decorative manner of her middle and late periods was a seamless collaboration between the constructed and the freely painted.

Her first solo exhibition was at Gimpel Fils in 1951, where she continued to exhibit regularly until the mid-sixties. Further solo shows were held at the New Art Centre, London (1966, 1968, 1971, 1973), at Clare College, Cambridge (1968) and at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (Diploma Gallery) in 1979. A retrospective of her work was held in the Sackler Galleries at the Royal Academy in 1994.

Blow also participated in many international group exhibitions from an early stage. These included; 'Young British Painters', at The Art Club, Chicago (1957), which subsequently toured the USA for two years; the Venice Biennale - Young Artists Section (1958); 'Aspects of New British Art', British Council touring exhibition of Australia and New Zealand (1967); and 'St Ives' held at the Tate Gallery, London (1985).

Blow's awards include joint-winner of the International Guggenheim Award (The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1960), Second Prize Winner in the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition (1961 and 1965) and the Korn Ferry Picture of the Year Award, Royal Academy (1998). In 1994 her work 'Green and White' was purchased under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest for the Nation.

Among her last commissions were a glass screen for Heathrow Airport (commissioned by the BAA in 1995), and illustrations for 'Waves on Porthmeor Beach', by Alaric Sumner (Wordsworth Books, 1995).