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The Situation Group

3 of 5 portraits of Gillian Ayres

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The Situation Group

by Sylvia Sleigh
oil on linen, mounted on canvas, 1961
48 in. x 72 in. (1219 mm x 1829 mm)
Purchased, 2007
Primary Collection
NPG 6817

Artistback to top

  • Sylvia Sleigh (1916-2010), Painter. Artist or producer of 1 portrait.

Sittersback to top

This portraitback to top

The Group took their name from an exhibition of their work entitled Situation held in 1960. Influenced by the contemporary art scene in America, they made large-scale abstract paintings. Their shared values underpinned a distinctive moment in the development of British art in the 1960s. Many of the artists depicted in this portrait went on to develop distinguished individual careers.
From left to right (back row): Henry Mundy (b.1919), painter and teacher; Gwyther Irwin (1931-2008), painter, designer and teacher; William Turnbull (b.1922), sculptor; Peter Coviello (b.1930), painter, potter and teacher
(centre row): Gillian Ayres (b.1930), painter, mural artist and teacher; John Plumb (1927-2008), painter and teacher; Peter Stroud (b.1921), abstract constructivist artist; Robyn Denny (b.1930), painter; Roger Coleman, painter; Bernard Cohen (b.1933), painter and teacher
(front row): Gordon House (1932-2004), printmaker, painter, designer and teacher; Lawrence Alloway (1926-90), theoretician and art critic; husband of the artist.

Events of 1961back to top

Current affairs

Peter Benenson's article The Forgotten Prisoners is published internationally, inspiring the founding of the human rights organisation, Amnesty International.
The philosopher and peace activist Bertrand Russell is imprisoned for inciting civil disobedience during a sit down demonstration at the Ministry of Defence and Hyde Park.
The farthing coin - used in Britain for the last 7 centuries - ceases to be legal tender.

Art and science

Rudolf Nureyev defects from the USSR fearing that the KGB would arrest him for being gay and for fraternising with foreigners. After seeking asylum in Paris he set up home in London at the Royal Ballet and began his famous partnership with Margot Fonteyn.
The satirical magazine, Private Eye is first published.


The East German government erects the Berlin Wall, ceasing free movement between East and West Berlin. The barrier prevented citizens of Soviet controlled East Germany from crossing the border into West Germany to work, or to defect.
Yuri Gagarin, the soviet cosmonaut, becomes the first man in space orbiting the earth on the 12th April.

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06 April 2018, 17:24

Henry Mundy was married to Gillian Ayres. He is positioned directly above her on the left hand side of the portrait.