- Patrick Caulfield
- santa margherita ligure ,1964
- oil on board
- 122 by 244cm.; 48 by 96in
E.J.Power, by 1971
Bryan Morrison, by 1981
Sale, Sotheby’s, London, 6th December 1984, lot 661
Private Collection, U.K.
Private Collection, U.K.
London, Whitechapel Gallery, The New Generation: 1964, March – May 1964, cat.no.7, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, p.22 (illustrated before completion);
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Patrick Caulfield, August – October 1981, cat.no.7, illustrated in colour in the exhibition catalogue, p.44;
London, Tate Gallery, Patrick Caulfield, October 1981 – January 1982, cat.no.7, illustrated in colour in the exhibition catalogue, p.44.
Christopher Finch, Patrick Caulfield, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1971, pp.24-27, illustrated in colour plate11;
Marco Livingstone, ‘Patrick Caulfield’, essay in catalogue to Walker & Tate exhibition 1981-82, op.cit., pp.18-19;
Marco Livingstone, ‘Patrick Caulfield: A Text for Silent Pictures’, Art & Design, London 1992, p.9, illustrated p.13;
Marco Livingstone et al., Patrick Caulfield, Hayward Gallery, London, 1999, pp.132-133, illustrated p. 131, illustrated before completion;
Patrick Caulfield, Marco Livingstone, Lund Humphries, London, 2005, pp.42, 122, 249 & 261;
Marco Livingstone, ‘Pop Art’, in catalogue to Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum, From Blast to Freeze: British Art in the 20th Century, 14th September 2002 – 19th January 2003, p.209, illustrated in the exibition catalogue.
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Santa Margherita Ligure was first exhibited by Caulfield as one of four he showed at the important 1964 Whitechapel Gallery exhibition, The New Generation. Aimed at showcasing the talents of contemporary British artists, it provided a platform for aiding the early careers of a number of painters who were to become key figures in British art during the 1960s, including David Hockney, Allen Jones, Peter Phillips, Bridget Riley and Derek Boshier.
Caulfield showed two paintings of 1963, Portrait of Juan Gris and Landscape with Birds (both Wilson Gift, Pallant House, Chichester) and two new paintings, Still Life with Necklace (Private Collection) and Santa Margherita Ligure. Much exhibited and discussed since, Portrait of Juan Gris was a clear statement of Caulfield’s interest in creating images that appropriated ideas from the giants of modernism (Gris was an artist Caulfield particularly admired) but presented them in a way that devalued their significance and rendered them as flat, decorative motifs.
However, in Santa Margherita Ligure, Caulfield developed his ideas further. Abandoning the square support that he had previously favoured for the landscape format that was to become standard in his work of the remainder of the decade, Caulfield drew the image from a postcard sent to him by a friend. The image had no specific meaning or significance for the artist and thus allowed him complete freedom to adapt it to his own purposes. The artificially heightened colours of cheap reproductions work wonderfully when translated to the flat gloss of Caulfield’s surface, and the choice of imagery provides a welcome contrast to the references to contemporary culture in the work of virtually all of his peers. In order to ensure that the viewer is in no doubt about the ‘fake’ element of the image, Caulfield frames the central view within a painted border, but this is over-run by the objects within. As Marco Livingstone notes, ‘The assertiveness with which Santa Margherita Ligure is presented belies the fact that it is composite view derived from a cheap, mass-produced photographic reproduction, from other art and from the imagination, united by common reference to a theme and locked into a visual unity through consistency of style.’ (Marco Livingstone, ‘Patrick Caulfield’, essay in catalogue to Walker & Tate exhibition 1981-82, op.cit.p.19). Caulfield derived the tree from ‘a wiggly stylised element’ in Picasso’s L’Italienne of 1917 and a photograph of the early stage of the painting (see below) and an inspection of the surface reveals that the artist had experimented with the placing and ornamentation of the railings, and that the harbour scene beyond was a relatively late addition, appearing to be completely his own invention. The innovative quality of Santa Margherita Ligure was recognised by Christopher Finch in the first monograph on the artist:
…I think it is correct to say that the most significant of the paintings shown by Caulfield at the 1964 ‘New Generation’ exhibition was Santa Margherita Ligure. The flat planes of colour covering the entire picture surface, the images covering the entire picture surface, the images outlined with bold black lines – these were to become the hallmark of Caulfield’s most typical work' (Christopher Finch, op.cit., p.26-27).
The inside-outside character of the picture was also a new departure for the artist and thus looks forward to the paintings of the early 1970s, such as After Lunch (Coll. Tate) of 1975, as well as heralding a series of paintings that took a Mediterranean theme for their subject, such as View of the Bay (Lisbon, Gulbenkian Foundation). The postcard prettiness of these works harks back to early twentieth century French painting, and echoes artists such as Dufy, Marquet and Matisse, but their invented qualities nullify any sense that the paintings are attempting to imitate the earlier masters, and were seen by John Russell as a comment on the decline of a great pictorial tradition (John Russell, review of Caulfield exhibition at Robert Fraser, Sunday Times, 31st January 1965).
Santa Margherita Ligure thus stands as a key work in Caulfield’s oeuvre, one that heralded many of the elements that were to become central to his art. Although not exhibited, in his essay on Pop Art in the catalogue accompanying the 2002 Blast to Freeze exhibition, Livingstone recognizes the centrality of this important painting in the establishment of Caulfield as a major figure.
Caulfield’s Santa Margherita Ligure of 1964, like his Engagement Ring of the previous year, conveys the chosen image with an extreme economy of means. In each case, the severity of the reduction of the motif to its essential linearity, filled in by a flat coat of gloss paint, yields improbably to the power of a briefly expressed emotion. This is particularly the case when the motif seems both impossibly corny or romantic, as with the picture-postcard view of a Mediterranean scene…While he rejected the appropriateness of the Pop label to his own work, his fascination with pushing his work towards different forms of banality made him one of the movements most original and challenging painters (Marco Livingstone, ‘Pop Art’, From Blast to Freeze: British Art in the 20th Century, op.cit., p.209).