- Patrick Heron
- January Yellows (Naples & Violet) : January 1960
- signed, titled and inscribed on the reverse; also inscribed on the stretcher bar
- oil on canvas
- 76 by 101.5cm.; 30 by 40in.
Private Collection, London
Waddington Galleries, London, where acquired by the present owner, 8th February 1991
Norwich, Castle Museum, Exhibition of Contemporary Painting, 7th - 31st December 1961, cat. no.11.
Amongst the many remarkable features of Heron's career was his ability to continually develop and renew his paintings so that each appears both fresh and adventurous. Throughout the 1950s, discernible groupings of work had succeeded each other, and by the very end of the decade, paintings such as Yellow Painting : October 1958 May/June 1959 (Tate, London, T07500) had achieved a remarkable degree of complexity and richness. The present work, January Yellows (Naples & Violet) : January 1960, bears close comparison to the Tate painting, which was recognised by Heron as a ‘great favourite of mine’ (in correspondence to the Tate, 6th January 1999).The deep yellow ground is built up in layers and applied in clear strokes, with streaks where the underpainting shows through, which contrast with the soft-edged simple geometric forms in more earthy tones.
Heron’s technique at this time involved the rapid application of paint which he described as ‘merely pushing fluid painting this way and that, with a blunt brush, until each colour met finally along a blurred and rather fuzzy edge’ (Patrick Heron, quoted in Vivian Knight, The Pursuit of Colour (exh. cat.), Barbican Art Gallery, 1985, p.10). The gesture and action involved in this process led to Heron even using the handle of his brush in the Tate picture to scrape through the wet pigment. The soft edges of the works were of particular importance to Heron at this juncture, for they allowed for a complication of the pictorial plane and composition. His work of this period was particularly well received, with a critic describing Heron in a review of a show at the Bertha Schaefer gallery in New York in 1960 (where the present lot was exhibited the following year) as a ‘juggler, balancing [his squarish shapes] in compositions of momentary equilibrium. Their state of suspended animation gives his pictures their extraordinary lightness despite the positive existence of his forms’ (Stuart Preston quoted in Mel Gooding, Patrick Heron, Phaidon, London, 1994, p.162).