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Details & Cataloguing

Modern & Post-War British Art

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London

Craigie Aitchison, R.A.
1926-2009
WINTER WASHING LINE, MONTECASTELLI 
signed and dated 2001 on the canvas overlap; also signed on the stretcher bar
oil on canvas
142 by 112cm.; 56 by 44in.
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Provenance

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

Literature

Cate Haste, Craigie Aitchison: A Life in Colour, Lund Humphries, Farnham, 2014, cat. no.182, p.192, illustrated p.193.

Catalogue Note

It is Aitchison’s masterful ability to convey the mood of his paintings through a simple balance of shape, colour and tone that helps to generate the languor and reverence of his works. Probably best known for his abstracted Crucixifions there is a respectful sobriety which permeates from this theme into much of the rest of his oeuvre. In Winter Washing Line, Montecastelli many of the elements characteristic to Aitchison’s work are apparent.

Through the sparse, almost puritanical, use of paint Aitchison deconstructs the depth of the picture, breaking up the landscape into four parallel planes of colour. The rich, abstracted bands of blue and green across the centre of the painting act as a natural magnet to the eye. With characteristic economy Aitchison embellishes the blue with simple yellow details, with the leaves and sun described with the lightest of touches. This sharp banding of tones is typical to his later works and is particularly sharply put to use in another variation on this present topic, in Night Landscape, Montecastelli, 2005 (Private Collection).

Aitchison’s art is not interested in anatomical detail and precision, but with the expressive qualities of form and colour; the roughly outlined trees and washing on the line being clear examples of this. Seemingly without material substance their exigency within the painting is in the elegance of their tones. Frequently in these landscapes animals occupy a role providing context and depth to the picture. Reminiscent of his Crucifixions the crows circle through the thin winter air as they provide the visual counterweight to the yellow of the sun and leaves. 

Aitchison’s first contact with Italy came in 1955 when he was awarded a travel scholarship and his exposure to a new depth of colour was something that stayed with him for a long time. ‘After Italy, I completely altered, colours and everything,’ (Cate Haste, Craigie Aitchison: A Life in Colour, Lund Humphries, Farnham, 2014, p.47). Many years later he bought a house in Montecastelli, Umbria, which provided the backdrop for this painting, along with many others.

Though not a churchgoer, Aitchison was introduced to religion by his father. His visit to Italy in 1955 as a result of his British Council scholarship confirmed his delight in the exuberance of the Catholic churches and the vibrant colours in the iconography of religion. Despite the popularity of the Crucifixion scene in art history, Aitchison, in his simplification of the subject and arrangement of colour, found an originally fresh way of telling his story of Christ’s death. In his works from the 1980s he explored the subject in a larger scale and in a brighter palette than earlier works from the 1950s and 1960s. 'I paint [the crucifixion] because I want to … it is certainly an event worth recording’ (Craigie Aitchison, quoted in Craigie Aitchison (exh. cat.), Timothy Taylor Gallery/Waddington Galleries, London, 1998, unpaginated).

Modern & Post-War British Art

|
London