Details & Cataloguing

Modern & Post-War British Art


Patrick Heron
signed, titled and inscribed on the reverse; also signed and titled on the stretcher bar
oil on canvas
198.5 by 122.5cm.; 78¼ by 48in.
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Spink-Leger Pictures, London
Waddington and Tooth Galleries, London
Heron Family
Waddington Galleries Ltd, London
Sale, Phillips London, 2nd November 1999, lot 106
Paisnel Galleries, London
Private Collection, USA


Sydney, Bonython Art Gallery, Patrick Heron: Recent Paintings, 16th June - 7th July 1973, cat. no.8;
Paris, Galerie le Balcon des Arts, Terry Frost et Patrick Heron, June - August 1977, cat. no.31;
Texas, The University of Texas at Austin Art Museum, Paintings by Patrick Heron 1965-1977, 28th March - 7th May 1978, cat. no.7.

Catalogue Note

'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 in Mel Gooding, Painter as Critic, Patrick Heron: Selected Writings, Tate Publishing, London, 1998, p.154)

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.

Although in conventional terms Heron’s work is visually abstract, he always saw himself as belonging to the figurative tradition, specifically as an ‘abstract figurative’ artist. Instead of typical forms and figures, Heron’s subject matter is the paint, in the true spirit of tachisme. The interaction between the paint, the canvas and brush becomes the central narrative in his art, following time spent in Paris in the late 50s, and every brush stroke carries its own unique character, modulating the nature of each work. The seeming contradiction between abstraction and figurative painting is in Heron’s view misleading; paintings can and do combine both. By reducing fields of colour to flat space the painting becomes abstract, with no true concept of location or depth; however these fields of colour become figurative as they represent the paint itself. Large blocks and planes of colour dominate Heron’s canvases of this period, and the flatness of the surface is disturbed and brought to life through the frenetic swirls and scribbles in the paint. Moreover, the colour then helps to create the illusion of space, subsuming lines and becoming the essence of the painting. As shapes and forms are placed around each other, Heron forces the viewer to establish relationships between them; placing them within the pictorial landscape. Seen in combination abstract figuration therefore becomes the messenger and the message, 'The true painter lives in his painted surfaces…The glory of the pictorial art lies not in any poetry which it may or may not transmit: but rather in the final or absolute experience of formal grandeur, of that contrapuntal play of form upon form, colour upon colour, flatness upon flatness, depth of space upon depth of space. These are the physical realities of painting.' (Patrick Heron, quoted in Andrew Wilson, 'Introduction' Patrick Heron, Tate Publishing, London, 2018, p.9).


Heron’s work of this period further investigates the illusion of space on a two dimensional canvas by drawing particular attention to the edges of the work. He reminds the viewer of the confines of the composition by placing shapes either at or near the edges of the work. The present work, like so many others is chiefly interested in impressing upon the viewer that what happens at the very edges of a composition is just as critical as what happens at its centre. Heron’s consideration of the composition as a whole is also addressed through the balance of the shapes in use. The scale of the forms has nothing to do with their objective size but how the colours interact with each other, with the purpose of creating a total harmony throughout the composition. Elements are presented in a fashion which encourages them to play off each other and they would lose their relevance in the pictorial space without each other. As Heron himself said, 'The picture is not the vehicle of meaning: the picture is the meaning' (ibid, p.11).

Modern & Post-War British Art