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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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