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Details & Cataloguing

Modern & Post-War British Art

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London

Patrick Heron
1920-1999
INTERIOR AT ST ANDREWS STREET, ST IVES
signed and indistinctly dated 1951
oil on board
22.5 by 106cm.; 9 by 41¾in.
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Provenance

Gifted by the Artist to Denis Mitchell in 1951 and thence by descent
Paisnel Gallery, London, where acquired by the family of the present owner in 2007

Catalogue Note

‘Whatever one is painting is the record of a moment - a moment in which reality was apparent to one, and in which visual pictorial terms were placed at one’s disposal for transcribing the experience’ (Patrick Heron, ‘Hills and Faces’, Penrith Society Broadsheet, 2nd June 1951)

 

The Estate of Patrick Heron is preparing the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the Artist's work and would like to hear from owners of any works by Patrick Heron, so that these can be included in this comprehensive catalogue. Please write to The Estate of Patrick Heron c/o Sotheby's Modern & Post-War British Art, Sotheby's, 34-35 New Bond Street, London, W1A 2AA or email modbrit@sothebys.com.

Interior at St Andrews Street, St Ives
 exemplifies the new, inquisitive vision in Heron’s semi-abstract works of the early 1950s. The influence of Picasso, Mattisse and Braque, the latter of whom he met in 1949 and whose work he had championed in his role as an art critic, is evident in this work. Heron pointed out his deep admiration and inspiration in the French masters in a letter written to the Tate about Harbour Window with Two Figures, St.Ives: July 1950 (Private Collection): 'It was largely based on the French masters I so admired, and which I was alone (with William Scott) in England, let alone Cornwall, in being influenced by at that time ... From Braque came the idea of the "transparency" of the objects ... On the other hand, the nature of my charcoal drawing is far removed from Braque; for instance, there is not a single rigidly straight line, nor a pure arc or circle; in their loose and speedy linearity these charcoal grids are, therefore, if anything, nearer Matisse - though I would have thought they are perhaps personal and rather English' (Patrick Heron quoted in Mel Gooding, Patrick Heron, Phaidon Press, London, 2008, pp.74-5).

As Heron remarks, despite these continental influences, the feeling of this painting is all Heron’s own and in many ways the underlying abstract qualities of the work are a precursor to the paintings that were to dominate his oeuvre a few years later. He has chosen as his subject a familiar every-day scene: mugs, plates, bottles and plants scattered across the table in his little rented cottage in St Ives. With a lightness of touch and gentle, muted colour harmonies, Heron leads our eyes on a rhythmic dance across the horizontal format of the composition to the female figure seated with her flamboyant hat in the corner. Just discernable are the windows to the sea view beyond, serving to create in Heron’s words, ‘a sort of marriage of indoor and outdoor space’. Although now considered figurative in the context of Heron’s later works, at the time these paintings, even to Heron, felt ‘terribly abstract’. Shapes slowly seem to reveal themselves, highlighted more by the emptiness between them than by the forms themselves. Often painting from memory, the subject and focus of his painting at this time was not so much the objects within the interior but the colours and his treatment of them, as well as the spaces between: the abstract qualities of the picture. Heron confirmed that despite an ‘irrepressible desire to comment upon that visual reality which my eyes encounter every day ... I am convinced that it is the underlying abstraction in a painting which gives that painting its quality, its life and its truth ... I believe in abstract-figuration’ (Patrick Heron, ‘Art is Autonomous’, The Twentieth Century, September, 1955).

Modern & Post-War British Art

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London