Manchester Art Gallery

A Mystery Solved: Peter Clough 1928-91

Sometimes galleries can give the impression that they know everything about the works of art in their care.

Out of the Crate, which displays about a third of the Manchester Art Gallery’s entire sculpture collection, has changed all that for us. It seems that admitting you know nothing at all is the first step towards obtaining a wealth of knowledge.

 

The Little Monster 1961, Peter Clough

The Little Monster 1961, Peter Clough

 

Here’s what we said on the label for Little Monster, by Peter Clough:

‘The file is empty… We have no creation date, no artist’s dates, no high resolution photograph. Without this information the Little Monster is forlorn. If you are able to find out more, please get in touch via the Out of the Crate page of the gallery’s website.’

Helen Scott saw our appeal for information, and she emailed us, suggesting that the artist was the Peter Clough whom she had known. She then contacted Peter’s son, who confirmed that Little Monster was one of his father’s works. We now have not only life dates, but biographical detail, we have photographs of other works, and Helen has shared this photograph of Peter, at work in his studio in Norfolk.

Peter was born in Hazel Grove, Stockport, in 1928. He went to a Catholic boarding school from the age of 12. When finding his feet as an artist he moved around a lot, although it seems he lived in London in the early 1950s. He moved to Paris in around 1957, where he married and had three children. On the breakup of his marriage in 1982 he returned to England and set up a studio in Dalston, London. This was when he met Helen. Helen was Peter’s girlfriend for the last nine years of his life. They shared a converted schoolhouse in Norfolk, with the large schoolroom forming Peter’s studio, and the smaller room used as the bedroom and Helen’s office. When he became ill with cancer in 1990, he was disappointed in the care offered by the NHS, and went back to France to see if his son Krishna, a cancer surgeon, could help him. Sadly it was too late, and he died in 1991.

 

Peter Clough at work, image copyright Helen Scott

Peter worked in different media, including metal, glass, wood and plaster-of-Paris. His work was exhibited by the New Vision and Drian Galleries in the 1950s. He made public sculpture and sold to private collectors, but he never hit big time commercial success. You can find his work at auction occasionally. I look forward to the time when we can urge you to come to Manchester, to find and enjoy his Little Monster, now supported by a respectably thick artist’s file.

With many thanks to Helen Scott for so generously sharing all of the above information. If there is anyone out there who knows any more about Peter Clough’s life or work, please do get in touch.

Hannah Williamson, Curator: Fine Art

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