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Details & Cataloguing

Modern & Post-War British Art

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London

Patrick Heron
1920-1999
FOUR IN DEEP CADMIUM: 1964
signed, titled twice and inscribed on the stretcher
oil on canvas
153 by 168cm.; 60 by 66in.
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Provenance

Private Collection
Denis Lawson, October 1964
Waddington Galleries, London
Richard Green, London
Private Collection, USA

Exhibited

London, Waddington Galleries, Patrick Heron, 24th November - 19th December 1964, cat. no.16;
Oxford, Museum of Modern Art, Patrick Heron: A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings 1957-66, 21st May - 15th June 1968, cat. no.33;
London, Richard Green, Heron: The Shape of Colour, May 2006, cat. no.19, illustrated p.63.

Literature

Bryan Robertson, John Russell and Lord Snowdon, Private View: The Lively World of British Art, 1965, illustrated p.73.

Catalogue Note

‘Colour is…as powerful an agent of spatial expression as drawing. Indeed, one “draws” with flat washes of colour, as often as not, and not with line at all. Tonal colour is thus the sole means of bestowing physical vibrancy and resonance without which no picture is alive. And this vibration can be conveyed in “hue-less colours” – that is, in blacks, whites and greys – no less than by the full chromatic range. […] Since I have never admired a picture yet which did not, as it were, give off a sensation of space […] I must for the present consider space in colour to be as useful a criterion as any other. Spatial colour is, however, a grammar: the language of space in colour can doubtless be made to express anything that stirs in the consciousness of man.’ (Patrick Heron, Introduction, Space in Colour, Hanover Gallery, London, 1953, quoted in Vivien Knight (ed.), Patrick Heron, John Taylor/ Lund Humphries, London, 1988, p.26)

By 1964, when this work was painted, colour was a prime concern for Heron. As he stated a couple of years before: ‘For a very long time, now, I have realised that my over-riding interest is colour. Colour is both the subject and the means; the form and the content; the image and the meaning, in my paintings today’ (Patrick Heron, 'A Note on my Painting: 1962', introduction to the catalogue for his exhibition at Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich, January 1963). Even the titles began to make direct reference to the colours used: in this work ‘Four in deep Cadmium’. Heron was now experimenting with increasingly bold and pure forms of colour, using single-colour pigments often straight from the tube over larger areas, as in this work where cadmium red dominates the canvas. Its deep brilliance is only broken by the four perfectly balanced wiggly circles, three of which are housed in soft-edged squares all of differing reds, oranges and browns. These forms appear to float on the ocean of saturated red cadmium. Heron discovered at this time that by placing a clear, if irregular, line between two colours ‘it changes the colour on either side of it’ and increases the intensity of the colours. These lines were never straight: as Heron stated in 1947 ‘unlike Ben Nicholson I have never In my life drawn a straight line or a purely circular circle or disc’ (Heron quoted in Mel Gooding, Patrick Heron, Phaidon Press, London, p.184).

This work is of particular interest because Heron was photographed by Lord Snowden in 1964 as he painted it. Therefore we can see how Heron began, not with the background, but rather with the red circle on the left followed by a startling orange which has been considerably toned down in the final work. These photographs record one of Britain’s most significant colourists in action and capture his delight in experimenting with the power of colour. This work displays the dazzling fierceness of Heron’s colour combinations and confirms Heron’s position as one of the most significant contributors to British post-war abstract painting.

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.

Modern & Post-War British Art

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London