This summer London Art Week is launching a new online platform, LAW DIGITAL. Discover over 5,000 years of art from the world’s leading pre-contemporary galleries on 3 to 10 July 2020, with a Preview on Thursday 2 July.
Yellows and Browns Interlocking with Soft Cadmium (Blue Flash), 1968
58.39 x 77.5 cm.
Inscribed 'Patrick Heron,' titled and dated October 1968 verso
Gimpel Gallery, New York
Private collection USA
The Prudential Assurance Company of America
Osborne Samuel Gallery
Patrick Heron’s exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, in summer 1972, blazed with colour. Focusing on paintings from the last fifteen years, it contrasted sombre reds, on one side of the gallery, against oranges, grass-greens and scarlets on the other. As Hilary Spurling recalled, The space between seems to pulse with colour – so much so that, as one rounds a corner … it is as though one had stepped from a clear, sunny day into a pool of firelight. 1
In the catalogue text, Heron wrote specifically about his use of colour in these recent paintings, conjecturing, ‘Perhaps I am the first wobbly hard-edge painter?’ 2 An eloquent art critic himself, Heron juxtaposed adjectives knowingly. ‘Hard-edge’, a term coined in the United States in 1959 for paintings characterised by areas of flat, cleanly delimited colour, was subverted instantly by ‘wobbly’, thus drawing attention to a critical aspect of Heron’s work. The scintillating colours of Yellows and Browns Interlocking with Soft Cadmium (Blue Flash) intensify by virtue of their blurred edges. Amorphous forms – keyholes, seeking to enclose and subsume– float upon the colour ground: orange, greens, browns and blue against red. At the aqueous margin of these shapes, a fringe of interference appears. Heron was fascinated to observe the effect of this frontier, particularly when its edges were freely, intuitively, drawn. As the eye travels, the spatial position of adjacent colour-areas appears to alternate, as first one side, then the other, comes to the fore.
1.Hilary Spurling, ‘East-End flame-thrower’, The Observer(25 June 1972), p. 28.
2.Patrick Heron, in Patrick Heron: recent paintings and selected earlier canvases (London: Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1972)
Oil on canvas
60.5 x 50.5 cm.
Signed and dated verso
Osborne Samuel Gallery
In 1965, at the height of his career, Hilton dismantled his London studio and moved to Cornwall, where he had painted since the 1950s. His new studio was in a cottage in Botallack, on the first floor overlooking the moors. It was there that he would paint Untitled (1971), now in the collection of the Tate. That same year, 1971, the Waddington Galleries presented Hilton’s sixth solo exhibition of paintings and drawings. Norbert Lynton, reviewing the exhibition, noted a dazzling variety among the works, some apparently referential, others abstract, a ‘gamut of possible marks and splotches, lines, colours’. The common denominator was freshness: ‘Each [painting] is driven home and left to its own devices, sufficient and vibrant, unpropped by theory or process’.₁
Although Hilton painted less and less during these later years, as his health declined, he did so with intensity. His work continued to walk a tightrope between figuration and abstraction, with curves suggesting breasts or hills, hard lines the outline of a house or a table’s edge. This allusiveness had been noted as early as 1958, in terms of landscape, but it was not until 1974 that there was critical acknowledgement of ‘a streak of the erotic’ in Hilton’s painting.₂ In Untitled (1970) there is an ambiguous interplay between landscape and the figure. The painting’s tonality suggests warm earth colours, including a strangely defined vegetal form, but the delineation, through drawing, evokes human contours.
₁ Norbert Lynton, ‘Waddington Galleries, London’, Studio International (November 1971), p. 195–6.
₂ Michael Shepherd, ‘Streak of the Erotic’, Sunday Telegraph (17 March 1974).
Yellow Autumn from a Terrace, 1948
Oil on canvas
52.1 x 107.2 cm.
Signed 'Hitchens', lower right; Further signed and inscribed 'IVON HITCHENS/Greenleaves Lavington Common/ Petworth Sussex/Yellow Autumn/from a Terrace' on a label attached to the stretcher
The Leicester Galleries, London, 2 February 1962
Private Collection, U.K.
Osborne Samuel Gallery
Woodland became a key feature of Hitchens’ paintings from the early 1940s onwards, following the family’s move to Lavington Common, Sussex, after his studio in Belsize Park was badly damaged by a bomb. This was a turning point for the artist, having escaped London to the seclusion and tranquillity of the countryside and surrounded by nature, his work took on a fresh spontaneity that is particularly evident in this painting.
Peter Khoroche noted:
“About Yellow Autumn from a Terrace -there is a note in IH’s Despatch Book, under Summer 1949, to the effect that certain pictures from the Leicester Galleries were transferred to the Leger Galleries at this time. Among these was Yellow Autumn from a Terrace. So we can be sure that it was painted before Summer 1949. I think ‘ca.1948’ would be a reasonable guess as to when it was painted.”
Taking a horizontal canvas, often propped low in front of him, Hitchens worked in the open air from landscapes hemmed close by foliage, bracken and the dank mass of water. He had moved to Greenleaves, six acres of woodland in Lavington, Sussex, following the bombing of his London studio. Never finding a reason to leave, he continued to paint its seasons, finding infinite variety where others might hardly register change.
Hitchens frequently drew analogy with music to describe his approach to painting, referring to the instruments in the ‘ painter’ s orchestra’ , a picture’ s rhythm and harmony, or the notation of tones and colours necessary to its ‘ visual music’ .1 Yet if his canvases are scanned, in the same way as musical scores, the attentive viewer soon notices that Hitchens’ calligraphic strokes are precise rather than bravura , the balancing of tone to unpainted canvas as calculated as that of an experienced orchestrator.
In Yellow Autumn from a Terrace , Hitchens creates a foreground scaffolding of tree trunks, arched brambles, shrubs, the suggested curlicues of ironwork, letting the eye find its own way towards chinks of cerulean-grey. As Christopher Neve wrote,
“…nature seemed to consist to [Hitchens] more of spaces than of objects, and it often appears that he instinctively drew the air and light that vibrates in the interstices of the view rather than the view itself.”2
1. Ivon Hitchens, Statement in Ark (1956), based on notes made a decade earlier.
2. Christopher Neve, ‘ Ivon Hitchens: Music’ , in Unquiet Landscape: Places and Ideas in 20th Century English Painting (Faber, 1990), p. 139.
59 x 12.75 x 12.75 cm.
Initialled, titled and dated, underside of wooden base
The artist’s family
Osborne Samuel, London
Illustrated Newlyn Art Gallery, Newlyn (1985)
Newlyn Art Gallery, Newlyn (1985)
Crane Kalman Gallery, London (1986)
Gillian Jason Gallery, London (1990)
Bridge Gallery, Dublin (1997)
Penwith Gallery, St Ives (1996)
The context of St Ives, where Denis Mitchell lived from 1930 until the late 1960s, was critical to his creative development. Trained as a painter, he undertook piecemeal employment as his young family grew, working as a market gardener, fisherman and tin miner. In 1949 he became principal assistant to Barbara Hepworth, and that same year he carved the work he regarded as his first sculpture. Ballet Dancer, which was admired by Ben Nicholson, abstracts gently from the human form, rendering it as two stacked rhomboids, pierced to indicate the dancer’s angled legs and raised arms. From some angles a body is clearly discernible, but as it turns, the outline dissolves into abstraction, to become an exquisitely balanced combination of forms.
In 1952 Mitchell’s work was exhibited in ‘The Mirror and the Square’, at the New Burlington Galleries in London, alongside sculpture by Hepworth, Chadwick and Caro. The exhibition aimed to explore the urgent issues of realism versus abstraction, although its extent and diversity proved too great for most to draw any firm conclusions. Yet Mitchell’s adherence to abstraction was already clear. During his ten years as Hepworth’s principal assistant, he would hone his instinct for carving and the purity of form, exploring the abstract implications of enfolding, modular or asymmetrical structures, even when his titles implied figurative origins.
When Mitchell turned to bronze in the 1960s, by necessity using a local sand-casting foundry at St Just, he brought a remarkable degree of sophistication to the process, filing and polishing the somewhat rough casts to create sculptures that were both elegant and aesthetically unified. Patrick Heron, in his introduction to Mitchell’s exhibition at the Marjorie Parr Gallery in 1969, wrote,
… a Mitchell is a form, usually a single, rather streamlined form, enclosed as it were by a single skin … In such art, intuition and intellect are always inextricably locked. ₁
Roseveor (1985), a woodcarving, exemplifies this premise. The split monolith appeared as a formal device in Mitchell’s work in the early 1960s, around the same time that John Hoskin (like Mitchell, a one-time member of the artists’ cricket team at St Ives) was also exploring its form. Hoskin used welded steel to create a series of linear split columns. Mitchell, essentially a carver, created volumetric forms which curve and taper, ‘conceived’, as Heron recalled, ‘under the maker’s hand’. ₂
Mitchell had worked with assistants since the early 1960s, among them Breon O’Casey. By the mid-1980s his assistant was Tommy Rowe, like Mitchell a fisherman, a sculptor and former assistant to Hepworth. Mitchell returned to earlier sketchbooks for ideas, choosing those he now felt he could alter and perhaps improve. Roseveor thus relates to Argos (1974), as well as to Boscawen (1962), sculptures with an upright form and a characteristic ‘U’ or ‘V’ shape. Detecting in Mitchell’s sculpture an affinity with Nicholson, whose white reliefs were carved from a single piece of wood, then meticulously painted in coat after coat of Ripolin paint (‘always getting to the heart of things with practicalities’), O’Casey nonetheless discerned the greater influence of painters such as John Wells or Roger Hilton:
There is a shape of Roger Hilton’s, a large lump with two uneven horns, that you can see, for example in [Mitchell’s] Geevor, or Talland. ₃
Mitchell seldom used yew for his carvings, the only other known instance being Torso, dating from 1951. Yew possesses a characteristic warmth, orange-brown to purple in colour, with a natural lustre and pronounced grain that can be seen clearly in Roseveor. Consummately carved, Roseveor also evokes a primal quality, redolent of the non-western carvings Mitchell admired and collected.
₁ Patrick Heron, introduction to ‘Denis Mitchell: Exhibition of Sculpture’, exhibition catalogue (London: Marjorie Parr Gallery, 1969).
₂ Heron, introduction to ‘Denis Mitchell: Exhibition of Sculpture’.
₃ Breon O’Casey, in Denis Mitchell and Friends, exhibition catalogue (Dublin: The Bridge Gallery, 1997), p. 11.
Returning to the Trenches, 1916
Drypoint on off-white laid paper
15.1 x 20.2 cm.
Signed and dated in pencil
Private Collection, UK
Osborne Samuel, London
Black, Jonathan. CRW Nevinson – The Complete Prints. London: Lund Humphries in association with Osborne Samuel, 2014. cat. no 9.
During his time both as an ambulance driver and with the Red Cross, Nevinson was captivated by the dense lines of marching French soldiers seemingly moving as one. Informed by the Futurist techniques for depicting movement, seen in such works a Boccioni’s ‘The City Rises’ and ‘States of Mind’, the French soldiers in ‘Returning to the Trenches’ merge into one unified mechanical mass, their limbs blurring together, giving one the impression of a speeding train disappearing into the distance. In his autobiography Nevinson stated that these soldiers may have been part of the French 89th territorial division, and in the oil painting of the same subject the early French uniform is distinctive with its impractical red cap. In an interview with The Daily Express in February 1915 where the painting was reproduced he stated:
“I have tried to express the emotion produced by the apparent ugliness and dullness of modern warfare. Our Futurist technique is the only possible medium to express the crudeness, violence, and brutality of the emotions seen and felt on the present battlefields of Europe … Modern art needs not beauty, or restraint, but vitality.”
The Merry-Go-Round, c.1930
30.51 x 30.4 cm.
Signed, titled & numbered lower left within the image
Edition of 50
The estate of Felice Ross, NYC
Osborne Samuel, London
Coppel, Stephen. Linocuts of the Machine Age: Claude Flight and the Grosvenor School. (Scolar Press, Aldershot: 1995). no. CEP 16.
Vann, Philip. Cyril Power Linocuts: A Complete Catalogue. (Lund Humphries, Surrey: 2013). no. 16.
Cutting Edge: Modern British Print Making , Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, June – September 2019
The Merry-Go-Round, like Power’s other great linocut ‘Appy ‘Ampstead is a real tour de force of Power’s vision and skill in producing intricately cut and inked lino-blocks to produce an image of such incredible kinetic energy.
The Merry-Go-Round is surprisingly printed from only two lino-blocks, in Chinese and chrome orange and Chinese blue in an edition of 50 impressions. Like his linocut The Giant Racer, The Merry-Go-Round was observed by Power at the Wembley Exhibition Fun Fair in west London, not far from his home in Brook Green in Hammersmith.
Power’s linocut is a stark contrast to Mark Gertler’s wonderful 1916 painting also titled Merry-Go-Round which is in the Tate Collection. In Gertler’s famous painting the figures are geometrical in shape, giving them the appearance of dolls, painted in blue, red and yellow. It is almost sedentary compared to Power’s whirling Merry-Go-Round that seems almost out of control as the riders spin around at breakneck speed, the central column appears to be bending under the momentum, the blue and orange patterning above the canopy of the merry-go-round creates a vortex of energy, the silhouetted black cut-out figures in the foreground look almost out of focus conveying the speed of the merry-go-round as the riders hold on for dear life!