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Details & Cataloguing

Modern & Post-War British Art

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London

Patrick Caulfield
1936-2005
WINDOW AT NIGHT
stamped with signature, titled and dated 69 on the reverse
oil on canvas
213 by 152.5cm.; 84 by 60in.
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Provenance

Waddington Galleries, London, where acquired by Mr & Mrs Frank H. Porter, 1969
Their sale, Christie's London, 4th June 2004, lot 116, where acquired by the present owner

Exhibited

London, Waddington Galleries, Patrick Caulfield, October 1969, un-numbered exhibition;
Cleveland, Museum of Art (short-term loan, details untraced);
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Patrick Caulfield: Paintings 1963 - 1981, August - October 1981, cat. no.19, illustrated, with tour to Tate, London;
London, Hayward Gallery, Patrick Caulfield, February - March 1999, cat. no.13, with tour to Musée National d'Histoire et d'Art, Luxembourg, Centro de Arte Moderna José de Azeredo Perdigão, Lisbon, and Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven;
London, Tate, Patrick Caulfield, 5th June - 1st September 2013, cat. no.5.

Literature

Christopher Finch, Patrick Caulfield, Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, 1971, illustrated fig.34;
Clarrie Wallis, Patrick Caulfield, Tate Publishing, London, 2013, p.15, illustrated fig.5.

Catalogue Note

Architectural subjects became a dominant preoccupation for Patrick Caulfield within half a decade of his graduation from the Royal College of Art in 1963. Although interiors of domestic spaces and of public sites suggestive of social interaction, such as pubs, bars, restaurants and hotel lobbies, came to dominate, his initial investigations of buildings were at least as concerned with how they looked from the outside. This was the case with Parish Church (fig. 1, 1967, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh), in which an entire building, depicted in the artist’s by then signature linear outline and flatly applied colours, seems to float in an ambiguous space economically rendered as a monochromatic grey ground. A sense of the observer being excluded from the tantalisingly brightly lit interior is still more intensely experienced in Stained Glass Window (fig. 2, 1967, Musée National d’Historie et d’Art, Luxembourg) of the same year, which positions the viewer very much closer to the façade (so that the window seems to be actual size) but still kept at bay from whatever mysterious sacrament may be taking place inside. Seen from below and at an oblique angle, that Gothic window is rendered as a mosaic of self-evidently flat shapes while simultaneously cleverly suggesting one’s precise spatial position in relation to it.

Window at Night makes use of a similar strategy as Stained Glass Window in terms of the position of the large expanse of glass subdivided into a systematic arrangement of individual panes, shown as if brightly illuminated from within and viewed as if from street level below. The visual language is now even more pared down. This time a single ellipse of bright yellow artificial light, passing through a suspended red lampshade, floods a schematically rendered empty room with a warm orange glow evenly dispersed across walls and ceiling as an uninflected flat coat of colour. The implication of a convivial shelter, though called into question by its barren emptiness, is brought into sharp focus by the inky blackness that surrounds it and that is locked into position by the metal framework of the window panes. As viewers we are left in no doubt that we are standing outside at night, probably in the cold, banished even from what might well be a grimly empty interior and left to speculate on what we might be missing out on. Though making sly allusion to the Minimalist grids and monochromatic canvases then in the ascendancy, the extreme simplicity is marshalled here to more human and emotionally resonant ends. The bittersweet atmosphere of solitude recalls and reshapes two of Caulfield’s prime points of reference, the paintings of Edward Hopper and the poems of the French Symbolist writer Jules Laforgue, a selection of which he was soon to illustrate in the form of a limited edition book of 22 screenprints published in 1973. In one of the poems chosen by Caulfield in translations by Patricia Terry, ‘Complaint about a certain Sunday’, the narrator finds himself ‘Oh, alone! alone! and so cold!’ In another, ‘Solo by Moonlight’, he experiences ‘Only the night,/So many clean, deep chambers!’ He responds by ‘peopling’ these rooms glimpsed from afar, imagining himself inside in the presence of a lover, before being reminded that ‘No one waits for me, I’m going to no one’s home./I’ve only the friendship of hotel rooms.’

Caulfield, exceptionally, made two nearly identical versions of this subject, on the same size of canvas, with the same colour scheme and derived from a single cartoon transferred to the primed ground with the aid of a linear drawing made in felt-tip pen on a polythene sheet. The other work, Lit Window (Berardo Collection, Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon), was painted in the same year. All that distinguishes one painting from the other are details of the foliage poking into the lowest of the window panes; even the single central pane of the top register is shown pushed open at precisely the same angle, wittily linking the ‘inside’ to the ‘outside’ of a scene rendered resolutely flat and letting imaginary air flow through a scene of intense and permanent stillness.

 

Marco Livingstone

 

 

Modern & Post-War British Art

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London