Modern & Post-War British Art

Modern & Post-War British Art



Auction Closed

November 20, 12:36 PM GMT


80,000 - 120,000 GBP

Lot Details



1920 - 1999


signed, titled, dated March - August 1977 and inscribed on the stretcher bar

oil on canvas

153 by 153cm.; 60¼ by 60¼in.

The Family of the Artist

Waddington Galleries, London, 2nd August 1983

Private Collection

Their sale, Sotheby's London, 28th September 2016, lot 85, where acquired by the present owner 

'The Colour of Colour', E. William Doty Lectures in Fine Arts, Third Series, 1978, The University of Texas at Austin, 1979, illustrated pl.27, endplate and p.33;

Vivien Knight (ed.), Patrick Heron, John Taylor in association with Lund Humphries, London, 1988, illustrated pl.62;

Mel Gooding, Patrick Heron, Phaidon Press, London, 1994, illustrated p.205.

London, Waddington & Tooth Galleries, Patrick Heron - Gouaches, December 1977;

Austin, The University of Texas at Austin Art Museum, Paintings by Patrick Heron1965 - 1977, 28th March - 7th May 1978, cat. no.31, illustrated on the cover;

Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery, The Presence of Painting - Aspects of British Abstraction, 1957 - 1988, 26th November 1988 - 15th January 1989, cat. no.32, with tour to the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle; and the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.

'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

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. As he states: ‘The painter is and always has been in search of one thing only: and that is, a new abstract figuration, a new but purely formal significance, a new pattern emerging out of the very mechanics of physical vision itself, a new shape in the organization of colour’ (Patrick Heron, 1973). 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.

By the mid-1960s Patrick Heron was at the height of his career, internationally recognised as one of Britain’s most successful Post-War artists. With acclaim came a renewed confidence and creative vigour that impacted the work he produced from this period until the late 1970s. His paintings became instantly recognisable explosions of rich, vivid colour. In these paintings Heron developed the ‘wobbly hard-edge’ manner he had perfected in the preceding years and used free-hand drawing directly onto the canvas, with a fresh and new immediacy that was matched by the playful palette. Each pigment was applied in a single session so as to ensure that the colours remained uniform, with just a single layer of paint to ensure no overlapping. The purity of colour, together with the scale of the works, resulted in a startling visual impact, the large blocks and planes of colour and the flatness of the surface 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).

Paintings from this exciting period were exhibited at Austin Art Museum, at the University of Texas, in 1977, including the present work which was featured on the front cover of the accompanying catalogue. The exhibition was supported with a series of lectures by Heron on his continued exploration of the theme of colour, subsequently published as The Colour of Colour, which showcased the energy and excitement of Heron’s work of the preceding decade. To look at works from this period today one is still struck by the explosion of colour, the confidence of form and the striking presence that these paintings possess, all so wonderfully captured in the present work.