- Patrick Heron
- Still-Life : Lamp, Dahlias And Sunflower : 1948
- signed and dated 48.; also signed and titled on the stretcher bar
- oil on canvas
- 76 by 76cm.; 30 by 30in.
Acquired from the above by Waddington Galleries, London, 31st October 2000
Private Collection, U.S.A.
Jonathan Clark Fine Art, London, where acquired by the present owner in October 2006
Derby, Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Exhibition of Contemporary English Paintings and Drawings, 19th November - 11th December 1949, cat. no.16 (as Still-Life Sunflower, Dahlias and Lamp);
Bristol, City Art Gallery, Contemporary English Painting, 4th February - 4th March 1950, cat. no.48.
Perhaps more so than any of his British Post-War contemporaries, Patrick Heron absorbed and was most influenced by the artistic developments which emanated from the continent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His early encounters with Post-Impressionism were to prove of formative importance: whilst boarding at St George’s School, Harpenden, the art teacher there, Ludvig van der Straeten, introduced him to Sickert and Cézanne, and it was the influence of the latter that particularly endured. Heron’s asthma precluded him from compulsory games, meaning that he drew or painted instead, and one afternoon, van der Straeten drove Heron to London, and placed him in front of Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine of 1884-6 at the National Gallery, then on loan from the collection of Samuel Courtauld. Heron was to write later: ‘for five years Cézanne dominated my adolescent sense of perception’, going on to comment that ‘I saw with his eyes; I even felt things with his fingers’ (Patrick Heron, Arts, October 1956, quoted in Michael McNay, Patrick Heron, Tate Publishing, London, 2002, p.16).
The influence of French artists was to continue: Matisse, Braque, Bonnard and Derain all cast a spell over the Artist, and Still-Life : Lamp, Dahlias And Sunflower : 1948 is full of the lessons learned from these masters. The treatment of the still life as sitting unambiguously on the surface of the picture plane would not, of course, have been possible without the revolutionary work of Cézanne. The bright, intense colour is redolent of Matisse, whose work he studied closely: during leaves of absence from his work as an agricultural labourer in 1943, he would stay at the Tite Street studio of a Slade friend, Adrian Ryan, and it was during these visits that he first saw Matisse’s The Red Studio (Museum of Modern Art, New York) in the Redfern Gallery. He returned time and time again to view it, and it proved of enormous significance, infusing Heron’s work with the bright, saturated hues of the Fauves, and directly inspired Heron’s The Piano: 1943 (Private Collection), a work Heron would later claim represented the most important step forward of his career.
In Still-Life : Lamp, Dahlias And Sunflower : 1948 Heron also adopts elements of Cubism, the tilting table-top being particularly similar to that of Braque’s Billiard Table No.1, (Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris). In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Heron’s distinctly linear style began to develop, and in the very definite outlining of the objects in the still life, and significantly the transparency of the lamp in the present work, it is possible to see Heron beginning to explore this new concept. Still-Life : Lamp, Dahlias And Sunflower : 1948 is thus a pivotal work, paving the way for Heron’s looser, loopingly linear works that were to follow, such as Christmas Eve : 1951 (Private Collection), commissioned for the Festival of Britain.
The handling of the present work is distinctly animated, the strokes painted with a bold and definitive vigour. It is a joyous riot of colour, and you can sense the energy zinging from the lively, bouncing outlines of the still-life objects to the zig-zag strokes of the flowers. There is a focus on the physicality of the stroke itself, reflecting Heron’s self-confessed delight in the act of painting: ‘I have myself always believed - through a decade of spray-guns and rollers and other methods of applying paint so that it was clinically impersonal, literally dead flat in quality - in the hand-stroked, hand-scribbled, hand-scrubbed application of paint: putting paint of a flat surface with a brush is just about the greatest pleasure I know.’ (Patrick Heron, from ‘Two Cultures’ Studio International, December 1970, reproduced in Vivien Knight (ed.), Patrick Heron, John Taylor Book Ventures in association with Lund Humphries, London, 1988, p.35.)