Still Life with Mugs, 1988
b. 1919, London, England
d. 1999, London, England
Prunella Clough was an English painter primarily known for her later, abstract works. She was an only child, raised in the affluent London neighborhood of Knightsbridge. Although largely self-taught, Clough attended the Chelsea School of Art for two years (1938–1939) until the outbreak of World War II forced her to abandon her studies. During the war, she worked as a draftsman, graphic designer, and cartographer. After the war, Clough began depicting laborers and rough, urban environments. She drew truck drivers, the insides of factories, and the industrial peripheries of cities. Her early work was associated with English Neo-Romanticism. Gradually, she became less interested in figurative painting and more interested in depicting man-made structures that bordered on the abstract, focusing on delineating details such as electrical wiring, machines, and metal fences. Consequently, although her paintings became increasingly abstract, they always retained their source in ordinary life. Although usually laconic and self-effacing, she once said of her paintings that through them, she was "saying a small thing edgily."
Clough received her first retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1960, and was later given a solo exhibition, funded by the British Arts Council, at the Serpentine Gallery in 1976. In 1999, in what would be her final year of life, she was awarded the Jerwood Prize for Painting for her lifetime body of work. Ever humble, and cognizant that she was terminally ill, she promptly gave away the entire £30,000 prize. Most recently, in 2007, the Tate Gallery, London, honored Clough with a major exhibition.