Waddington Galleries, London, where acquired by the present owner 1st July 1976
Marco Livingstone, 'Patrick Caulfield: A Text for Silent Pictures,' Art & Design, 1992, Academy Group Ltd, London, illustrated p.40;
Marco Livingstone, Patrick Caulfield Paintings, Lund Humphries, Aldershot, 2005, p.71, illustrated p.77.
Café Interior: Afternoon exemplifies the bold stylization and dynamic use of intense saturated colour for which Caulfield has become most well known. It belongs to a highly important series of works from the late 1960s and early 1970s which focus on the interior; a traditional subject innovatively updated and reconfigured in Caulfield's trademark style. The interior motif accounted for an important period of transition in Caulfield's work. There came a busier sense of form via a more complex linear grid, which was set against a simpler use of colour. His paintings became larger; board was replaced by canvas and oil gave way to acrylic.
These seminal interiors consist of familiar objects and invented places that create the illusion of three-dimensional space through clever use of two-dimensional forms and devices. The viewer is encouraged to feel as if they are walking into the room, which is maximised by the large scale and perspective at eye-level. As engaging is Caulfield's distinct use of colour that animates the composition in conjunction with the emphatic diagonal lines, exemplified in the present work. Colours which one would imagine could not succeed in a painting combine and dazzle – it is from such effects that Caulfield has justifiably been referred to as 'the most inventive colourist of any British painter of the late twentieth century' (Ibid, p.11). Caulfield's employment of colour also offsets the sense of detachment in the drily descriptive line and precise finish of his paintings by the emotional response it engenders in the viewer.
Perhaps most impressively of all is the sense of light that Caulfield achieves in the crisp blocks of colour which give it a palpable physical reality. Leading up to this date, Caulfield had become increasingly interested in the multifarious effects of light and more specifically on the subtleties imbued in different sources of light, such as the warm glow of Smokeless Coal Fire (1969, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester) and the artificial light silhouetted in Lit Window (1969, Private Collection). In Café Interior: Afternoon, the play of light and shadow achieves its most dramatic result, literally bursting across the picture plane in a vigorous pattern of diagonals.
Caulfield's imagery is readily drawn from the realm of the familiar, which he treats in a formalised manner. The convivial interiors of his paintings take on a cool, detached atmosphere, which is achieved through a conspicuous absence of human presence and by containing the objects within fixed, rigid lines. This method maximizes their presence and suggests a symbolic content, although no further meaning is explicated. As with Caulfield's paintings, subtleties and visual metaphors lie under the surface for the spectator to determine themselves. A subversive humour often resounds and Café Interior: Afternoon, with its moulded plastic seats, possesses a hint of irony shared in similar works such as Interior with Room Divider (1971, Private Collection) and Dining Recess (1972, Arts Council Collection, London) that draw upon slightly out-dated, popular suburban design.
One of Caulfield's most impressive achievements is his ability to convey direct and immediate images through such an economic but sophisticated use of colour and line. Bold and assured, the graphic appearance of Caulfield's paintings belies their spatial and stylistic complexity. In executing these paintings, Caulfield purposefully adopted a clean, impersonal style which has paradoxically become his identifying signature. However, in Café Interior: Afternoon, Caulfield places a hint of the personal in the pipe that rests on the table, referencing one of his favourite habits and which was to appear in the last of his paintings. As a symbol of Caulfield, it goes hand in hand with the vitality that is exuded in the present painting.
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