- Patrick Caulfield
- Girl on a Terrace
- acrylic on canvas
- 213.5 by 152.5cm.; 84 by 60in.
Marco Livingstone et al, Patrick Caulfield: Paintings 1963-1981, exh. cat., Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and Tate, London, 1981, p.26, illustrated p.58;
Marco Livingstone et al, Patrick Caulfield: Paintings 1963-1992, Wiley-Academy, Cambridge, 1992, p.37, illustrated;
Marco Livingstone, Patrick Caulfield, Lund Humphries, London, 2005, pp.76, 283, illustrated p.80.
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Caulfield's paintings of the late 1960s and early 1970s saw a marked shift in their emphasis, with a simplification of the palette and a gradual removal of the abstract forms that had appeared in the earlier compositions.
Frequently focussing on a single object or subject, many of the paintings of this period take light as a defining feature, as seen in Lit Window (Private Collection) and Smokeless Coal Fire (Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery), both of 1969, and this use of a light source to define a space or to add a living dimension to an image. This development in Caulfield's work ran concurrently with a number of paintings in which he created almost entirely monochrome interiors, their details defined by a network of black lines. This complete absence of modelling the forms depicted was important in that it served two purposes, leaving the viewer in no doubt that the apparent illusion of space and depth which they were witnessing was just that, and to ensure that the artifice of the subjects was also emphasised. As with early works that used a Mediterranean theme, but which were drawn randomly from postcards of places the artist had never been, such as Santa Margherita Ligure of 1964 (sold in these rooms 13th July 2007, lot 152), the artist's play with the conception of reality in paintings such as Inside a Swiss Chalet (Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia) or Villa Plage (Waddington Galleries, London) leaves one with a lasting sense of an image that is unmistakeably 'like' the actuality it suggests, yet is so clearly anything but.
Girl on a Terrace combines both of these themes, and also incorporates something that is extremely unusual in Caulfield's painting, the human figure. The setting, and the painting's title, work with the deep indigo of the palette to create the feeling of a Mediterranean idyll at eventide, the sole light source being the guttering candle on the table. The female figure, whose sweater and profile form a single dark block, shows no features that give us any further clues to the situation other than those which we assume but without any real foundation. As with many of his interiors of the period, whether populated or not, by the scale and perspective of the painting Caulfield leaves us in a rather ambiguous position, because of course we as the viewer would be seated at the opposite side of the table to the enigmatic female figure who, with an empty glass by her side, looks away out of the picture plane, across a suggestion of jumbled roofline.