Lot 30
  • 30

Patrick Heron

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Patrick Heron
  • Vertical Bands Oct : 58 - Feb : 59
  • signed, titled and inscribed on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 56 by 121.5cm.; 22 by 48in.


Timothy Taylor Gallery, London
Waddington Galleries, London, where acquired by the present owner


Cirencester, Corn Hall, 10th Anniversary Exhibition: Penwith Society of Arts, 1960, un-numbered exhibition, with tour to Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne;
Oxford, Museum of Modern Art, Patrick Heron: A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings 1957 - 66, 21st May - 15th June 1968, cat. no.14;
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Patrick Heron: Recent Paintings and Selected Earlier Canvases, 21st June - 16th July 1972, cat. no.14.


Original canvas. There is craquelure and reticulation to the far right red stripe and the central mustard brown stripe. There is very minor flattening to some of the thicker globules of raised impasto, with some very minor possible old frame abrasions to the extreme edges of the work, visible upon close inspection. This excepting the work appears in very good overall condition. Ultraviolet light reveals areas of fluorescence and probable retouchings to the extreme left hand edge, most probably in line with a previous frame abrasion, with further traces visible to the upper right quadrant, and scattered smaller traces towards the centre. There are further areas of fluorescence and possible over-painting, executed by the artist, in the left hand side of the composition. Float-mounted in a tight white wooden box frame. Please contact the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present lot.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The Estate of Patrick Heron is preparing the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the Artist's work and would like to hear from owners of any works by Patrick Heron, so that these can be included in this comprehensive catalogue. Please write to The Estate of Patrick Heron, c/o Modern & Post-War British Art, Sotheby's, 34-35 New Bond Street, London, W1A 2AA.

This rare example from Heron’s oeuvre was conceived in 1958-9, at a crucial turning point in Heron’s development when he was emerging as one of the most experimental abstract artists working in Britain in the post-war era. Heron had experimented with pure abstraction since 1952 and discussed his ideas on form and colour in his articles on American, British and European art, but figurative elements remained present in his paintings till early 1956. From this time, he developed a language of strokes of pure colour known as his ‘garden paintings’. As these works developed, the vertical strokes became longer till they reached from the top of the canvas to the bottom in bands of colour, and a rare group of paintings emerged which became known as Heron’s ‘stripe’ paintings. In these works Heron pushed his art beyond a visual starting point, into an entirely new arena where the primary emphasis was on colour and form with no allusion to a definite subject. This corpus of work spanned just over a year, starting with Vertical Light: March 1957  and although Lux Eterna:May-June 1958  (sold in these rooms for a record price in June 2001), is often cited as the last of Heron’s ‘stripe’ paintings, Susanna Heron, the artist’s daughter who is currently compiling the catalogue raisonné  of Heron’s work has cited that the present work, Vertical Bands Oct : 58 - Feb : 59, is the last example from the series.

As such, this work is particularly important, displaying elements distinctive of the ‘stripe’ series, but also revealing a development into Heron’s next phase of experimentation. In this work the parallel vertical bands of vibrant colour harmonies are much wider and denser than the earlier paintings dating to 1957 and early 1958. Here we see the beginning of a move towards the use of the rectangle or lozenge which was to occupy Heron for the next few years. Each block resonates with the next, with thick densely painted bands of pure colour contrasting with thinly washed strokes of colour. Their respective pigments seep into one another and the soft edges between the bands create a sense of vibrating movement. These soft-edges would appear again in Heron’s floating discs and squares seen in his works from the 1960s. Unusually for his stripe paintings, in this canvas the bands are painted right up to the edge, almost giving the impression they have been cut from a larger work. Over the next few years, Heron would continue to experiment with the edge of the canvas which he found as integral to the finished work as the painted area within.

Heron’s primary concern at this time, and indeed from thenceforth, was predominantly with colour.   Heron made clear that these works were simply vehicles for colour: 'Early in 1957, when painting my first horizontal and vertical colour-stripe paintings, the reason why the stripes sufficed as the formal vehicle of the colour was precisely that they were very uncomplicated as shapes. I realised that the emptier the general format was, the more exclusive the concentration upon the experiences of colour itself.'

This radical new departure, despite the poor reviews when the works were first exhibited in 1958, had an overwhelming effect on contemporary art at the time, and confirm Heron’s position in the late fifties as a leading figure in abstraction internationally.  It was not until over a decade later that their true revolutionary elements were appreciated: in his introduction to Heron’s 1972 retrospective at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, in which the present work was exhibited, Alan Bowness stated the importance of the stripe paintings: ‘Bands of colour were not in 1957 the pictorial cliché they later became: on the contrary these were paintings of a remarkable originality and beauty as at least a few perceptive artists and critics were able to recognize …At the time one was told that Heron was simply following Rothko. Now if this means that he was exceptionally quick to appreciate Rothko’s quality and his importance it is true… but the striped paintings they do recall are later in date… I am inclined to claim now that Heron’s paintings of 1957-58 are a major statement by a British artist, and they occupy in the context of their time a situation analogous to William Scott’s black and white paintings of 1954, or, to go further back into the past, Ben Nicholson’s white reliefs of 1936’ (Alan Bowness, Exhibition catalogue, London, The Whitechapel Art Gallery, Patrick Heron: Recent Paintings and Selected Earlier Canvases, 1972, p.2).