Tom Overton on 'Bust of Mr Thomas Dokepanol' (c. 1940) by Peter Peri

Leeds Sculpture Collections Single Sculpture Lecture Series
4th March 2015
Henry Moore Institute Seminar Room, 6pm

Peter Peri
'Bust of Mr Thomas Dokepanol'
c. 1940

Courtesy Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery) and the estate of the artist
Photo: Norman Taylor

Tom Overton discusses Peter Peri's 'Bust of Mr Thomas Dokepanol' (c. 1940) as part of an ongoing lecture series highlighting sculptures from the Leeds Collections.

The central character of John Berger's first novel, A Painter of Our Time (1958), is based partly on the Hungarian émigré sculptor Peter Peri (1899-1967). Like Peri, the protagonist is propelled across Europe by Fascism and Communism, playing a part in some of the most important developments in abstract art, and settling in London. There, he returns to figuration, and rails at the galleries - who have the cheek to think he's old-fashioned - for actually being decades behind.

This talk is the second in a series of lectures addressing individual works in the Leeds Collection. Tom Overton, who is editing a two-volume collection of Berger's writing about art as a Henry Moore Institute Research Fellow 2014-15, will use a concrete portrait bust from the collection, 'Mr Thomas Dokepanol' (c.1940) as a starting-point for exploring the complex tangle of relationships between Berger and Peri, which blend art and literature, studio and gallery, fact and fiction, abstraction and figuration, exile and homecoming. And most importantly for both men as communists, it asks a question: what should socialist portraiture look like?

In exploring these questions, the talk will draw on a fascinating, little-seen film about the demolition of Peri's studio, discoveries from Berger's archive - which Overton catalogued at the British Library - and, from Peri's archive, what appears to be a previously unknown sketch of Berger.

Tom Overton wrote his PhD on Berger, and he's also a Fellow of the Centre for Life-writing Research at King's College London. His writing has appeared in The New Statesman, Apollo, The White Review and CityMetric. He has curated exhibitions at Somerset House and the Whitechapel, and he is the author of an online history of the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Alongside the Verso editions of Berger, he's currently working on the British Library's Discovering Literature site, and a book about archives.