PETER LANYON | ANTICOLI SNOW
100,000 - 150,000 GBP
signed; also signed, partly titled and inscribed on the reverse
oil on board
98 by 43cm.; 38½ by 17in.
Executed in 1953.
Gimpel Fils, London
Frank Walker, USA, 1953
Mr and Mrs Peter Walker
Gimpel Fils, London, 1997
Anderson Consulting, 1997
Sale, Sotheby's London, 11th December 2006, lot 138
Richard Green, London
Private Collection, where acquired by the present owner
Andrew Causey, Peter Lanyon, His Painting, Aidan Ellis Publishing, Henley-on-Thames, 1971, cat. no.56, p.50;
Toby Treves, Peter Lanyon, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings and Three-Dimensional Works, Modern Art Press, London, 2018, cat. no.306, illustrated p.270.
‘…Anticoli is superb. A St Just of the Arbuzzi. I went there with the Rome Scholar. We arrived at about 3:30pm half way up the mountain and had to walk down to the valley and up the other side to Anticoli. Approaching was like going towards the mouth of some grim monster, behind was Piero’s landscape and Mantegna. The climb up was a sharp zig zag in between houses for which there seems to be no level. Lamps and charcoal fires were alight in the houses and one saw faces peeping out of doors like we have in Island Road …’ (Peter Lanyon, Lanyon Family Archive, reprinted in Toby Treves, Peter Lanyon, Catalogue Raisonné, Modern Art Press, London, 2018, p.270)
We are grateful to Martin Lanyon and Toby Treves for their kind assistance with the cataloguing of the present work.
While remaining deeply rooted to his native Cornwall, throughout his career Lanyon was aware of, and engaged with, international art movements, particularly the American abstract expressionists, and travelled on both the continent and in the US. Lanyon’s periods away from Cornwall often proved inspiring and restorative, leading to critical developments in his work. He was particularly drawn to Italy, having first visited the country during his war service, and returning in 1948 and 1950. Italy was an important point of reference for Lanyon, and indeed he was inordinately proud of the fact that he had only ever spent one day in Paris. In January 1953 he again returned to the country he found so stimulating, travelling to Rome on an Italian Government scholarship, with the intention of spending four months based in the region. While exploring the countryside with notable scholar Heinz Inlander he came across Anticoli Corrado and was immediately drawn to the medieval hill town. Like St Ives, Anticoli was a small, steep city which had a significant history as a haven for artists, and although by 1953 few remained, it had recently been a base for a number of leading Italian figures, including Massimo Campigili and Giuseppe Capagrossi. Lanyon set up a base in Anticoli for the remainder of his stay, renting a house with Inlander until the end of April.
The present work was very likely finished on Lanyon's birthday on the 8th of February, as he refers to finishing a piece which is almost certainly Anticoli Snow in a letter sent to Sheila Lanyon stating: 'Anticoli is situated east of Rome in the mountains on the road from TIVOLI to SUBIACO. Tivoli is where Hadrian had his villa and SUBIACO is where the Benedictine order was founded. So I am between the levity of ancient Rome and the roses of the lord. It is now 9 AM and for the first time I have lain in bed. Usually I get up at 7.0 but I have had hell all week with the painting and then I finished it on my birthday…' (9th February 1953, Peter Lanyon Archive).
In the work Lanyon perfectly captures the experience of being in the late wintery Italian landscape. Landscapes and weather were critically important to Lanyon’s vision, with the titles of his paintings often referring to meteorological phenomena such as Bay Wind (1958, sold in these rooms, 11th November 2009), or to specific localities- the present work combining both place and weather. In Anticoli Snow Lanyon builds up thin layers of pigment in a pallet of greys which evoke limestone emerging through the last dirty snow drifts, as well as olive tones, splashes of icy blue, and hints of red buried deep within the topography, suggesting the heat and life about to emerge as the season changes. The scene is shown from multiple perspectives, with the city walls appearing to be thrust upwards and articulated with black markings, surrounded by the hills and overcast sky above. The vertical format alludes to the steep nature of the city, which Lanyon found so striking as he made his way through the streets.
Just prior to his time in Anticoli, Lanyon had spent a strenuous period painting the seminal St Just (1951-3, Private Collection), one of his most thoroughly evocative works which draws on the biblical theme of crucifixion and takes the town of St Just in Penwith, the location of a notorious mining disaster as its subject. It is interesting therefore that Lanyon immediately associated Anticoli with the town, calling it the ‘St Just of the Arbuzzi.’ The restorative effects of the new landscape and experiences were invigorating and opened up a new intuitive response to the environment: ‘I am developing an aversion for the manners which cloak animal intentions and getting a strong taste of the primitive tongue which operates bodily and massively by instinct. That is Anticoli.’ (Letter to Terry Frost, 30th April 1953, Tate Gallery Archives 7919.3.4). It is clear that his time in Anticoli and the painting of the present work was seminally important to the development of his painting and Lanyon was inspired to extensively re-work St Just, almost entirely repainting it, immediately upon his return to Cornwall.