Lot 29
  • 29

Peter Lanyon

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Peter Lanyon
  • Inshore Fishing
  • signed, dated 53 and indistinctly dated 52; also signed, titled and dated 1953 on the reverse
  • oil on board 
  • 106.5 by 73cm.; 42 by 28¾in.


Gimpel Fils, London, 1957
Design Research Unit, London
Christian Action
Their sale, Christie's London, 1st March 1974, lot 198
Paul Rice, 1974
F. Dickinson, 1975
Sale, Christie's London, 26th October 1994, lot 142, where acquired by David Bowie


New York, Passedoit Gallery, Three British Painters: Lanyon, Gear, Hull, January 1953, cat. no.7;
Bath, Everyman Club, Octagon, Exhibition of Paintings by Peter Lanyon, Bryan Winter, Peter Potworoski, Paul Feiler, February 1955, cat. no.2;
Plymouth, Plymouth City Art Gallery, Peter Lanyon, May 1955, cat. no.15, with tour to Midland Group Gallery, Nottingham;
Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, Six Painters from Cornwall, 11th November 1955 - November 1956, cat. no.2, with tour to Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Art Gallery of Toronto, Toronto, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, University of Alberta, Alberta, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Willistead Art Gallery, Ontario, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario, and The Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Art Museum, Ontario;
London, O'Hana Gallery, Dimensions, December 1957, cat. no.41 (with incorrect date);
St Ives, Sail Loft Gallery, Peter Lanyon 1936-1961, May 1961, cat. no.22;
St Ives, Tate, Peter Lanyon: Coastal Journey, 11th November 2000 - 11th March 2001, un-numbered catalogue;
St Ives, Tate, Peter Lanyon, 9th October 2010 - 9th January 2011, un-numbered catalogue, pp.17 and 22, illustrated p.61;
London, ROKEBY Gallery, Inshore Fishing: Peter Lanyon and Four Contemporary Artists, 16th November 2012 - 18th January 2013;
St Ives, Tate, Modern Art and St Ives: International Exchanges, 1915-65, 17th May - 28th September 2014, un-numbered catalogue, illustrated p.81, with tour to Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art, Middlesborough. 


Andrew Causey, Peter Lanyon, Aidan Ellis Publishing, Henley-on-Thames, 1971, no.54;
Chris Stephens, Peter Lanyon: At the Edge of Landscape, London, 2000, illustrated p.132;
Andrew Lanyon, Saint Ives: The Paintings of Peter Lanyon, privately printed, St Ives, 2001, illustrated.


The board appears sound. The board appears unevenly cut. There is a small loss to the edge of the board at the lower right corner. There are nailheads visible around the edges of the board in places, from the nails which have been used to affix the board to the frame, and in some places there are associated lines of craquelure and some small flecks of loss. There are one or two possible tiny infillings to areas surrounding the aforementioned nailheads. There is a small pinhole apparent in the upper left corner. There is some reticulation and craquelure apparent to the brown pigment in the lower half of the work. There is some craquelure and small flecks of loss at the outer sides of the work in places. There is a tiny speck of loss to the small dab of blue penetrating the white pigment at the centre of the composition. There are three small scuffs, with associated flecks of loss, just to the left of centre of the upper horizontal edge. There is some light surface dirt across the work and some minor flattening to one or two of the raised elements of thicker impasto. Subject to the above, the work appears to be in very good overall condition. Ultraviolet light reveals no obvious signs of fluorescence or retouching. The work is float mounted and presented in a simple painted wooden frame. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"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

We are grateful to Martin Lanyon and Toby Treves for their kind assistance with the cataloguing of the present work, which will feature in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the oil paintings and three-dimensional works, to be published by Modern Art Press in association with Yale University Press.

More so than perhaps any of the St Ives artists, Peter Lanyon is most intimately connected to the land, and in particular the Cornish landscape. Travelling by foot, motorbike and then glider, he transcribed it onto canvas. What he depicted, however, was much more than simply the physical lie of the land - it was the feel and experience of the place that he captured. As his fellow painter, Patrick Heron, put it, Lanyon’s painting was informed by ‘the up-and-downess of a path: the sliding-pastness of house, rock or hill as he rides along: the going thoroughness of a gap between rocks’ (Patrick Heron, Art News and Review, 6th March 1954, reproduced in Peter Lanyon: Paintings, (exh. cat.), Plymouth, 1955).

It is this experience of being in the landscape that is captured perfectly in Inshore Fishing. The forms of cove, ship, sail and net are present but abstracted, distributed across the surface of the work. The composition is layered and complex with strands of colour glancing through a grey Cornish sea like flowing fronds of seaweed or the tangled mesh of fishermen’s nets. The palette is that of his native Cornwall, white froth racing over sea and stone, with hints of green and turquoise glimpsed through swathes of darker paint; writing on the present work’s completion in 1953, Lanyon stated he had: ‘just completed a landscape of net and grey sea with plenty of room to wander in brilliant colours but with just enough dirt to make it sensible’ (letter to Roland Bowden, 23rd July 1953, quoted in Andrew Lanyon, op. cit., un-paginated).

The texture of the work also furthers this notion of the physical experience of the land. It is an excellent example of Lanyon’s mature painting technique, which he had developed by 1952: grinding and mixing the paint himself, he would build up many layers of paint creating an all-over ground, which he would then incise and work into using scrapers and knives. There is a water-like fluidity to the paint as well as a roughness reminiscent of the hard physical labour required of the fishermen who worked along this coast. In works such as Inshore Fishing that we see Lanyon at his most evocative: by deftly reducing the landscape to an abstracted amalgam of sea, rock and net he transcends mere representation and captures the very essence of the place, demonstrating an intensely-felt communion with the land which is quite unique.