Cliff Holden

Documents: 2005


Hässlås Målarskola
Pl.92, 31193, Långås

Tel/Fax: +46 (0)346 93439   Mobile: +44 (0)7802 400937

Cliff Holden

FCSD (Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers)

Born Manchester 1919
Educated Wilmslow Modern School and Reaseheath School of Agriculture

Cliff Holden met David Bomberg at the City Literary Institute in London in 1944. Holden then followed Bomberg, in the way of an apprentice, wherever he was teaching, first at the Borough Polytechnic (now the London South Bank University) and then at the Bartlett School of Architecture.

As a result of discussions with Bomberg from the time of their meeting in 1944, Holden conceived the idea of the Borough Group, which was established in 1946. The other founder members of the group were Edna Mann, Dorothy Mead and Peter Richmond joined later by amongst others Dennis Creffield. Holden was nominated and elected the first President of the group during 1946-48. The Borough Group was active for five years until disbanding in 1951 by which time they had organised seven exhibitions. The purpose of the Borough Group was to work out the ideas that Bomberg promoted and provide a platform for furthering those ideas

During the years 1952-62 Holden contributed articles to: Konstrevy, Paletten, Konstperspektiv, Art News and Review, Studio International as well as BBC Radio talks on Bomberg and Swedish art. Holden’s’ memorial tribute to David Bomberg broadcast on the BBC Third programme in 1958 was described a decade later by the art critic David Sylvester as ‘the most useful analysis of Bomberg to have appeared’. For many years Holden has promoted cultural exchanges between Sweden and England and was instrumental in bringing the work of Evert Lundquist to international attention, also in securing one of Henry Moore's three piece sculptures for the city of Gothenburg.

From 1956 Cliff Holden has lived and worked as a painter in Sweden. He also founded a design studio together with Lisa Gronwall and Maj Nilsson, which moved to Marstrand in 1959 where the trio became internationally known as the Marstrand Designers and received many awards. In 1984 the studio moved to a school building in a village near Falkenberg, which has become known as the Hazelridge School of Painting - Hässlås Målarskola where Holden continues to paint and also inspire visiting art students.

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Cliff Holden

~ Founding President of the Borough Group (1946)
~ Seven exhibitions of the Borough Group (1946-1951)
~ Exhibition at Parsons Gallery - work by Holden, Creffield, Mead, and Richmond (1951)
~ Exhibition at Gummesons Gallery, Stockholm - work by Holden, Creffield, Mead and Richmond at the invitation of Torsten Renquist (1952)
~ Lived and worked in Spain with Dorothy Mead (1953/54)
~ Exhibitions at Manchester Library: 1955 and in 1959 with silk screen prints as well as paintings
~ Exhibitions in Stockholm and Gothenberg
~ Met Lisa Grönwall and Maj Nilsson and conceived the idea of a design studio (1956)
~ Guest teacher at Valand School of Art, Gothenburg (1956)
~ Design of the Year - awarded by the Design Centre award for wallpaper design (1962)
~ The Whitworth Gallery holds many examples of Cliff Holden’s wallpaper designs on their database
~ Marstrand Designers' murals and wallpaper designs can be found throughout the world, in hotels, offices, embassies, ships, hospitals etc
~ Guest teacher at Goldsmiths College, University of London and Mount Mary College Milwaukee (1973)
~ Hässlås Målarskola received Northampton Journal award for quality and service (1996)
~ Composed manuscript "Work in Progress" - deposited with the Tate Archive (1999)
~ Exhibition in Falkenberg, Sweden to celebrate Holden's 80th birthday (2000)
~ Special foyer display of one work at Tate Britain in honour of Holden's 80th birthday (2000)
~ Bomberg and the Borough - exhibition at Tate Britain (2004)
~ Special display of one work at Tate Britain in honour of Holden's 85th birthday (2004)
~ Bomberg and Pupils, The Borough Group 1946-1951 - exhibition at the Boundary Gallery, London (2004)
~ Included in exhibition at Modern British Artists, London (2004)
~ Launch of web site (2004)
~ Awarded degree of Honorary Doctor of Letters by London South Bank University (2006)

Work by Cliff Holden is held in the following collections: Arts Council of Great Britain; Victoria & Albert Museum Textile Archives; Whitworth Gallery, Manchester - houses many examples of wallpaper designs; MMU, Manchester College of Art (Graphic Section); Tate Britain, London; Museum of Modern Art, Edinburgh (Graphic Section); Manchester City Art Gallery (Rutherston Collection); Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm; National Museum, Stockholm (Graphic Section); Laholm's Museum of Drawings; Museums of Gothenburg, Luleå, Eskilstuna, Borås & Karlstad; private collections in U.S.A., Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Portugal & U.K.


Cliff Holden was born in Manchester in 1919. He had an unconventional upbringing, as his father was a farmer and engineer as well as an inventor, musician and trade union activist while his mother was a hat designer. Holden has painted since he was a child but never went to art school until he met and became apprenticed to David Bomberg. Before establishing himself as an artist he worked in a variety of jobs including circus hand, road digger, waiter, window cleaner, labourer and model. During the war he was active as a conscientious objector and ran a pacifist community farm set up by the Quaker, John Jenkins. After leaving the farm Holden led a romantic life, playing by turn the role of tramp, gypsy and for a while his commitment to pacifism gave way to anarchism when he became one of ten members on the editorial board of Freedom Press which produced a weekly paper War Commentary which after the war changed to the title Freedom. In a search for understanding Holden studied philosophy and went out of his way to meet people like HG Wells and also associated with George Orwell, Herbert Read and Dr Alex Comfort amongst others. It was at the City Literary Institute in 1944, when at a philosophy class, that Holden saw the name of Bomberg listed as a teacher. Holden had been to exhibitions of the London Group and noticed and felt an affinity with the work of Bomberg. This chance meeting led Holden to a life-long commitment to painting and teaching following the principles and inspiration given to him by Bomberg.

Reference: Work in Progress by Cliff Holden 1999

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[Page last updated: 24th June 2007]

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