Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Kitchen Sink Art

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


The Kitchen Sink School, a term coined in 1954, referred to a group of British painters popular in mid-’50s who focused their work deliberately on the unglamorous — everyday objects and scenes often on industrial and working-class themes, or at least drab and unheroic scenes of post-war austerity: commonplace subject matter of daily life like cluttered kitchens, backyards, tenements. The School consisted primarily of John Bratby (1928-1992), Derrick Greaves (1927- ), Edward Middleditch (1923-1987), and Jack Smith (1928- ). Reminiscent of Social Realism without the biting critique, the work was typically ascribed to existential angst: “Bratby paints as though he had only one more day to live. He paints a packet of cornflakes on a littered kitchen table as though it were part of the Last Supper” (Berger qtd. in Dempsey 200). Offering the “chic of contemporary despair” during an era of the Cold War and the Bomb, it went out of vogue when in the ’60s London began to swing.

John Bratby (Wimbledon 1928 – Hastings 1992)

Table Top (1955)
Bratby tried to express anxiety of the nuclear age.

Still Life With Wardrobe

The Toilet

Edward Middleditch (1923-1987)

Sunflowers in an Electric Light (1956)
Middleditch found more inspiration in nature than the other Kitchen Sink artists, but not glorious country landscapes — more stark urban nature. Note the cheap curtain.

Works Consulted

The Art Book. London: Phaidon Press Ltd., 1996.

Dempsey, Amy. Art in the Modern Era: A Guide to Styles, Schools & Movements. NY: Harry N. Abrams Inc., Pub., 2002.