Lot 24
  • 24


120,000 - 180,000 GBP
125,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Peter Lanyon
  • Tamarisk
  • signed twice and dated 1956
  • oil on board


Gimpel Fils, London, 1956
Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London, 1989, where acquired by the present owner


New York, Catherine Viviano Gallery, Peter Lanyon: Exhibition of Paintings, 21st January - 9th February 1957, cat. no.7, illustrated;
Lincoln, Massachusetts, de Cordova and Dana Museum and Park, A Decade in Review, 27th April - 1st June 1958, unnumbered exhibition;
Contemporary British Painting, British Council, 4th June 1963 - 22nd September 1964, cat. no.12, with tour;
Three Contemporary Painters: Peter Lanyon, Henry Mundy, Ceri Richards, Arts Council, 12th October 1963 - 14th March 1964, with tour, cat. no.1;
London, Tate, Peter Lanyon, 30th May - 30th June 1968, cat. no.42, illustrated, with Arts Council tour to Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth; Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne; City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool;
New York, Gimpel Gallery, Collector's Choice, March 1970, cat. no.45a, illustrated;
London, Gimpel Fils, Peter Lanyon: Works 1946-1964, 1st - 19th November 1983, cat. no.5;
London, Gimpel Fils, Peter Lanyon: Selected Works 1952-1964, 27th October - 21st November 1987, cat. no.3;
London, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, Peter Lanyon: Landscapes 1946-1964, 2nd - 27th April 1991, cat. no.11, illustrated.


Stephen Bann, 'Peter Lanyon, Ceri Richards, David Boyd', Cambridge Review, 2nd November 1963, Vol. 85, no.2060, p.87;
Andrew Causey, Peter Lanyon: His Painting, Aidan Ellis Publishing, Henley-on-Thames, 1971, pp.20, 22, 53, cat. no.82, pl.37;
Andrew Lanyon, Peter Lanyon: 1918-1964, Andrew Lanyon, Newlyn, 1990, illustrated p.155;
Peter Lanyon, 'Letters from Lanyon to Roland Bowden', Modern Painters, Vol.5, no.1, spring 1992, pp.54-7, illustrated p.57;
Chris Stephens, Peter Lanyon, 21 Publishing Ltd., London, 2000, p.125;
Tom Cross, Painting the Warmth of the Sun: St Ives Artists, 1939-1975, 2nd edition, Halsgrove, Wellington, 2008, p.115. 
Toby Treves, Peter Lanyon: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings and Three-Dimensional Works, Modern Art Press, London, 2018, cat. no.353, pp.326-327, illustrated. 

Catalogue Note

Exhibited in New York at Lanyon’s first solo exhibition with the legendary Catherine Viviano, Tamarisk bears all the hallmarks of the artist’s trademark style. Executed in broad, sweeping gestures in a brooding palette of cool blues, rich greens and deep black tones, Tamarisk would have been quite at home alongside any member of the New York School of American Abstract Expressionism. However, rather than being painted in a loft in New York City, Tamarisk was painted in St Ives, Cornwall, where Lanyon was born and where he lived and worked for the best part of his life. The intoxicating blend of dramatic coastal topography, unique light and forever changing weather fronts, together with a rich tapestry of history and mythology embedded in the region was the beating heart of his artistic output. But such ‘provincial’ roots shouldn’t detract from the power, innovation and wider impact of Lanyon’s mission. Indeed, in his lifetime, he had the same number of one-man exhibitions (five) in New York with Viviano, that he had in London with Gimpel Fils. Together with his friends and contemporaries Patrick Heron, Alan Davie, William Scott, Terry Frost and Roger Hilton, the story of his artistic development is the story of post-war painting in Britain. Using Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo’s avant-garde example as a spring board for his own ideas, Lanyon forged ahead in the later 1940s and 1950s to create a radical new conception of what it was to be a landscape painter.

Painted in 1956, Tamarisk exemplifies the dynamic style and utterly personal response to the landscape which he developed in proceeding years. In comparison to the intensely layered, scraped and worked surfaces of earlier paintings in the decade such as Trevalgan (1951, Private Collection) and Sarascinesco (1954, City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth), the energetic brushwork, particularly the sweeping passages of black and dark green paint, marks an important transition. The looser handling and expansive scale certainly nod to developments in American painting that Lanyon would have witnessed earlier in 1956 at Tate’s seminal exhibition Modern Art in the United States and are prescient of his move towards a much freer, more spontaneous approach to painting, which reached its zenith when he first took to the skies in a glider in 1959.

Tamarisk is a small tree or large shrub distinctive because of its dainty, seemingly weightless green leaves. In Cornwall, it flourishes all along the coast and in Lanyon’s various notes in his family archive about the present work, he mentioned the tamarisk in the village of Perranuthnoe, between Porthleven and St Michael’s Mount, where the plants lead all the way down to the sea (see Treves, op.cit., p.326).

Lanyon also noted human presence in the present work: ‘A place with a person…’, and of ‘Blowing hair an echoe [sic] of the female’. The girl in question was his partner at the time, Susan Hunt, an art student at the Bath Academy of Art at Corsham who was his girlfriend from 1955-1959. Tamarisk thus belongs to the so-called Susan series that began with the similarly monumental Lulworth (1956, Albright-Know Art Gallery, Buffalo) completed in April 1956 and inspired an intensely productive period in which Tamarisk, Downland and Boscastle were all completed within a few weeks of each other:

‘From Lulworth to Boscastle is from the betrothal to the passion. One is charming tender young, the other the ponderous bull./ I hope you can see these. The other paintings Tamarisk + Downland (+ some drawings) are days off and therefore have the inevitable ‘rightness’ of such times’ (ibid., p.326).

The combination of vivid green, serene blue and confident strokes of black certainly hint at the ‘rightness’ of a carefree day spent within the landscape enveloped by the cool, fresh, salty air of the Cornish coast.