This year’s edition of Masterpiece will be an online event. We will present selected works from our Modern British exhibition in the gallery.
Head of JYM III, 1980
Chalk and charcoal on paper
76.2 x 58.4 cm.
Marlborough Fine Art, London
Private Collection (purchased from the above)
William Feaver, Frank Auerbach, published by Rizzoli, no. 428
Frank Auerbach ‘Recent Work’ 13 January – 11 February, 1983, Cat No 31, Marlborough Fine Art, London
Auerbach met Juliet Yardley Mills in 1956, when she was working as a model at Sidcup College of Art. He began to paint her the following year, and continued to do so, at his studio in Camden, every Wednesday and Sunday, until 1997. As with all his repeated sitters, Auerbach developed an acute awareness of posture and mood:
I notice something when people first come and sit and think, they do things with their faces. It’s when they’ve become tired and stoical the essential head becomes clearer. They become more themselves as they become tired. ₁
JYM was an ideal sitter, capable of holding poses for long periods of time. At first Auerbach painted her without identification in his titles, although she is distinguishable from his previous frequent subject, Stella West (EOW). A characteristic pose shows JYM seated, her head against the back of the chair or supported by linked hands. As Robert Hughes notes, she always returns the artist’s gaze, and ‘there is a look – head cocked back, sometimes seen a little from below, a bit quizzical, sometimes challenging – that makes [her portraits] quite recognizable as a series’. ₂
Auerbach’s drawings evolve and assume their final form across weeks of sittings. A day’s work may be scrubbed back, the following morning, to leave an accumulated deposit of charcoal. In some cases the paper wears perilously thin and needs to be patched. The finished drawing represents the last sitting, the most recent thoughts, yet Auerbach feels compelled to retain the accumulated traces as part of a process of securing the image within its own space and atmosphere. ₃
Head of JYM III gazes partially downwards. There is a weight and solidity that derives from the density of charcoal, implying the settled mass of the sitter, at ease, one shoulder higher than the other. The volume of her head is registered through its eye sockets, cheekbones and chin. Through these we gain an intuition of its totality, and how it might feel to follow the head round, past its visible limits.
₁ William Feaver, Frank Auerbach (Rizzoli, 2009), p. 20.
₂ Robert Hughes, Frank Auerbach (London: Thames & Hudson, 1990), p. 80.
₃ Feaver, Frank Auerbach, p. 19.
Oblique I, 1978
Oil on canvas
76 x 76 cm.
The New Art Centre, London, no:106/25
For paintings such as Oblique I, inspiration came from surprising and unexpected sources. Clough’s ‘source photos’ and sketchbooks indicate that a patch of worn paint or tarmac might generate a compositional idea or even an entire painting. Thickly painted, thermoplastic road markings on a familiar walk, could easily find themselves rearranged and transferred to one of her paintings. Similarly, a row of twisted, steel rebars sticking out of a reinforced concrete wall could catch her eye. The random positioning of the hook profiles here set up a rhythmic idea which contrasts with the more angular, geometric patterning.
A curious feature of Clough’s technique was not only the manner in which she applied pigment, but also the way in which she removed it from surface of her canvasses; this was part of a never-ending quest to create interesting surface textures. Paint would be scraped and gouged off the surface while it was still wet, or even after it had dried and abrasive scourers would be used to scrub away a patch of pigment to achieved a more varied and pictorially interesting effect.
Dancer in a Landscape, 1943
Pencil, charcoal and conté crayon and gouache on paper
45.9 x 58.65 cm.
Christopher Hull Gallery
Private collection, UK 1992
Private Collection, UK
Ian Collins, John Craxton, Lund Humphries, Farnham, 2011, p.49, illustrated pl.43
Dancer in a Landscape belongs to a series of images, painted or drawn by Craxton in the early 1940s, depicting solitary figures. He later described them as projections of himself, ‘derived from Blake and Palmer. They were my means of escape and a sort of self protection. A shepherd is a lone figure, and so is a poet.’ ₁
Poet in a Landscape and Dreamer in Landscape (now in the Tate collection) are dense pen and ink drawings, reproduced in Horizon in March 1942. In each, a seated figure appears oblivious of the encroaching vegetation, gnarled trunks and roots. Craxton’s lithographs for The Poet’s Eye (1944) likewise depict tin-helmeted figures, seated, lost in reverie amid moonlit landscapes, or half-concealed within trees.
By contrast, Dancer in a Landscape is lighter in mood. In the summer of 1943 Craxton travelled with Peter Watson and Graham Sutherland to St David’s Head in Pembrokeshire, where he sketched alongside Sutherland. As he recalled,
There were cloudless days and the land was reduced to basic elements of rocks, fig trees, gorse, the nearness of sea on all sides, a brilliant clear light. Everything was stripped away – all the verbiage, that is – to the essential sources of existence. ₂
This simplification is apparent in the clarity and lightness of Dancer in a Landscape. There is a joyous sense of movement in the depiction of the river, tussocks of grass, and soft shading of the figure, as well as the delicately feathered tree and spidery clouds. Throughout the composition, Craxton seems to delight in the possibilities of mark-making, lightening with chalk and adding touches of green and sepia
₁ John Craxton, in ‘John Craxton: Paintings and Drawings 1941–1966’, exhibition catalogue (Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1967), p. 6.
₂ Craxton, ibid.
November 58, 1958
Oil and gouache on paper
70 x 45 cm.
Signed and dated lower right
The Waddington Galleries, London
Private Collection, UK (purchased from the above by an long term employee of the gallery)
Offer Waterman & Co, London
Private Collection, UK
The Waddington Galleries, London
Offer Waterman & Co, London
‘My main interest, in my painting, has always been in colour, space and light…and space in colour is the subject of my painting today to the exclusion of everything else’
Patrick Heron 1958
In 1956 Heron returned to Cornwall after spending over a decade in London and inspired by the gardens surrounding his new home Eagles Nest, he began his ‘stripe paintings’ and his first ‘garden paintings.’ The development from his figurative work was in part a response to the work of American Abstract Expressionists whose work he saw as bringing ‘a new kind of energy and inventiveness’, but also from the continual influence of the great French colourists Bonnard and Matisse. From 1958 he began to paint fields of colour containing soft edged squares and discs. In 1963 the critic Norbert Lynton wrote the defining phrase about Heron’s latest paintings, ‘it is not possible even to distinguish significantly between the forms and the colour fields they inhabit’.
Mother and Child: Round Form, 1980
19.7 x 11 x 13.6 cm.
Signed and numbered from the edition on the back edge of the bronze base
Edition of 9
Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
Private Collection, New York (and sold: Sotheby’s, New York, November 13, 1996, lot 314)
Private Collection, London (acquired at the above sale)
Jeanne Frank Gallery, New York
Private Collection (Acquired from the above on March 17, 1997)
Private Collection, London
Alan Bowness, ed., Henry Moore, Complete Sculpture, 1980-1986, vol. 6, London, 1988, p. 51, no. 789, illustration of another cast pl. 38
Dimensions include the artist’s bronze base
A cast from the edition is owned by the The Yale Center for British Art, USA
Reviewing Moore’s eightieth-birthday exhibition at Fischer Fine Art, which juxtaposed recent sculptures with those from the 1920s and ’30s, John Glaves-Smith drew attention to the persistence of the rounded female figures. Even in the interwar period, when women – deprived of calories, then taking up tennis and hockey – strove for the boyishly svelte silhouette of the ‘flapper’, Moore’s figures remained ample, replete with curves. ₁ The most salient exception would be his post-war Mother and Child (1953), a tense pairing in which the child appears to peck, ravenously, at its mother’s breast. In this composition, the mother strains away from the child, her waist attenuated, her head serrated in defence.
Mother and Child Round Form (1980) demonstrates the persistence of Moore’s monumental vision. The female figure is non-sexualised, seeming to exist only in relation to the child, whom she regards intently. The composition centres on the child, its mother arguably providing little more than a context: a support. To this end, the female figure is largely devoid of non-essential detail. There is the merest indication of breasts, and hands to clasp. Legs, lacking purpose, are truncated, while weight sediments towards the cushion of the mother’s lap. The effect is far from stolid, however. As almost invariably with the subject of mother and child, Moore imbues the composition with timelessness and universality.
₁ John Glaves-Smith, ‘Exhibitions: Henry Moore’, Art Monthly (September 1978), p. 19.
Greens & Blues with Red, Orange Contrasts, 1985
Gouache on paper
27 x 30 cm.
Titled, signed and dated lower margin in pencil
Private Collection, UK
Osborne Samuel, London
Private Collection, Canada (purchased from the above 2012)
In the original plexi boxed frame.
During a trip to the Nile in the winter of 1979–80, Riley became aware of five colours in the tomb paintings in the Valley of the Kings, which she perceived as recurring in all aspects of Egyptian life. This palette – consisting of red, blue, yellow, turquoise and green – remained strongly in her memory, and began to direct a new method of organising her work. As Riley recalled,
I returned to a broader stripe or band, but the growing complexity of the colour relationships required further changes. It is part of a painter’s work to be aware of the role that distance plays in the viewer’s experience. Ecclesia (1985) seen close up shows a particular group of painted colours. Each band has a clear identity. Step back and the colours begin to interact, further away still a field of closely modulated harmonies cut by strong contrasts opens up. … I used cut bands of painted paper in a collage technique to adjust, change and move colours around. ₁
Riley was exploring two aspects: the physical identity of the stripes’ colour, and the visual experience of their relationship, one to another. Working on paper, Riley made studies to examine the different rhythms of repeated, varied and disrupted sequences, often with the analogy of music in mind. Sometimes, she would insert breaks, such as the repeated black stripe in Silvered (1981).
In the gouache study, Greens and blues with Red orange contrasts (1985), the break is a physical one, allowing each section to be seen both on its own terms and in conjunction. A process of distillation works from left to right; defining and isolating the core motif.
₁ Bridget Riley, ‘At the end of my pencil’, London Review of Books, Vol. 31, No. 19 (8 October 2019). Riley’s Ecclesia (1985) is in the Arts Council Collection.
Thorn Trees, Spring, 1967
Oil on canvas
54.61 x 45.69 cm.
Signed and dated upper left Also signed with initials, inscribed, dedicated and dated again 'P.A and FRAU ADE/a souvenir/of/11 March 1967/with friendship./G.S. 30.V.67/THORN TREES. SPRING' verso
Mr & Mrs Peter Ade, München
Thence by descent
Private Collection, Germany
PA are the initials of Peter Ade, the Director of Haus der Kunst in München . A gift by the artist in recognition of the assistance Peter Ade gave with a travelling exhibition of Sutherland’s work in 1967. ( Haus der Kunst München, 11. March – 7. May 1967; Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 2. June – 30. July 1967; Haus am Waldsee Berlin, 11. August – 24. September 1967; Wallraf-Richartz-Museum Köln, 7. October – 20. November, 1967.)
This painting clearly relates in structure to two earlier versions of the same subject from the 1940’s, one now held in the British Council and the second at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, New York).
In the 1940s Sutherland began a series of paintings based on thorns. Walking in the country, and preoccupied with a commission for a Crucifixion , he began to notice ‘ thorn bushes and the structure of thorns, which pierced the air in all directions, their points establishing limits of aerial space’ . Drawing them, he observed a strange transformation take place: the thorns rearranged themselves into ‘ a paraphrase of the Crucifixion and the Crucified Head – the cruelty’ .1 Kenneth Clark described the resulting trees, heads and crosses as akin to metaphors in poetry, their freely created forms more vivid and personal for using imagery not already ‘ deadened by use’ .2
The context for these works for Sutherland, a Catholic, was deeply meaningful. In the early post-war years he received commissions from the Reverend Walter Hussey for a Crucifixion and Noli me tangere , respectively for St Matthew’ s, Northampton, and Chichester Cathedral. More significant still was the tapestry commissioned by Basil Spence as a focal point for the new Cathedral at Coventry (1962), a monumental sign of hope abutting the ruins of its war-blasted predecessor. At Coventry, Sutherland’ s Christ in Majesty was complemented sensitively by an altar set from Geoffrey Clarke, itself alluding to the bitter piercing of thorns.
Among Sutherland’ s ‘ thorn’ paintings, a cluster of Thorn Crosses evokes altar sets. The trinity of forms in Thorn Trees, Spring (1967) likewise suggests a cross and candlesticks, or perhaps a crucifixion witnessed by mourners: such is the malleability and suggestibility of Sutherland’ s imagery. Especially potent is the painting’ s confluence of death and renewal – sere thorns cloaked in the verdure of a fresh season. The contrast was one Sutherland had originally hoped to exploit in his commission for St Matthew’ s, Northampton, as he explained:
I would have liked to paint the Crucifixion against a blue sky … in benign circumstances: blue skies, green grass, Crucifixion[s] under warmth – and blue skies are, in a sense, more powerfully horrifying.3
1. Graham Sutherland, ‘ Thoughts on Painting’ , The Listener (6 September 1951), p. 378, quoted in ‘ An Exhibition of Painting and Drawings by Graham Sutherland’ (Arts Council and Tate Gallery, 1953), unpaginated.
2. Kenneth Clark, introduction to ‘ An Exhibition of Painting and Drawings by Graham Sutherland’ (Arts Council and Tate Gallery, 1953), unpaginated.
3. Sutherland, ‘ Thoughts on Painting’ , The Listener (6 September 1951), republished in Graham Sutherland, Correspondences: Selected Writings on Art , ed. Julian Andrews (Graham and Kathleen Sutherland Foundation, 1982), p. 73.
Female Figure, 1988, 1988
190.5 x 101.6 x 50.8 cm.
Signed and numbered from the edition of 6
Edition of 6
Waddington Galleries Ltd, London
Private Collection USA, purchased from the above in 1989
Osborne Samuel, London
Private Collection, Canada (purchased from the above in 2014)
Davidson, Amanda, The Sculpture of William Turnbull , published by Lund Humphries, 2005, p.175, no. 263
Waddington Galleries, Solo exhibition, 1991, cat 9 (illus. p.23)
The idols Turnbull made in the 1980s revisit forms from the 1950s, demonstrating an essential seam within his sculptural thinking. Female Figure (1980) presents a vertical slab, scrolled at the top to suggest a head, gently scored towards the base to imply a robe. Arms become curved pipes, a counter-positioned wedge suggests feet, but the most salient feature is the figure’s breasts, implausibly and voluptuously placed.
The figure clearly suggests fertility: a goddess or idol, resonating with both ancient and more recent history. In rituals – whether pagan or religious – the chalice or jug is often equated with birth, as a parallel to the pregnant figure. One of the most significant transferences within modern sculpture is Germaine Richier’s L’Eau (1953), or Water, in which she incorporated the fragment of a terracotta amphora, found on a beach at Camargue, as the neck of a seated figure. The hooped handles of the vessel, just as the arms of Turnbull’s Female Figure, evoke a symbolic link to water, a source for life.
Slim in profile, despite its towering height and material heft, Female Figure evinces both grace and a sense of joyousness, expressed by its arms – curved, hand on hip, or open to embrace. There is a recapturing, too, of the spirit of Acrobat (1951), made at the beginning of Turnbull’s career, who balances exuberantly and fearlessly, arms outstretched.