St. Ives, Cornwall 1918 - 1964 Taunton, Somerset
Signed, titled and dated on the reverse: DRY WIND / PETER LANYON 1958
Oil on board: 48 ¼ x 29 ½ in / 122.6 x 74.9 cm
Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York
Ernesto Regalado, El Salvador, acquired from the above in the late 1960s, then by descent
New York, Catherine Viviano Gallery, Peter Lanyon, 26th January - 21st February 1959, cat. no.11; Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, European Art Today: 35 Painters and Sculptors, 1959 - 1960, cat. no.65, illustrated, with tour to San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore; Lincoln, University of Nebraska, Nebraska Art Association’s 71st Annual Exhibition, 1961, cat. no.71; San Antonio, Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, Peter Lanyon, March 1963, cat. no.6; Bloomington, Illinois Wesleyan Museum, School of Art, Annual Purchase Exhibition, 1963 (no catalogue produced); Katonah, Katonah Gallery, Contemporary British Artists, 1964 (no catalogue produced); Michigan, Grand Rapids Art Museum, International Painting Exhibition, 1965, un-numbered exhibition
Andrew Causey, Peter Lanyon, Aidan Ellis Publishing Limited, Henley-on-Thames, 1971, pp.21, 56, cat. no.104, illustrated pl.62
This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Peter Lanyon’s oil paintings currently being prepared by Toby Treves, to be published by Modern Art Press in association with Yale University Press.
‘I think of myself as a landscape painter in the tradition of Constable and Turner’ – Peter Lanyon.
As a painter known predominantly for the strong bond he possessed with his native Cornish landscape of St Ives, Peter Lanyon ‘naturally reverted to his identification with the landscape to which he belonged … through its permanence and familiarity’, yet he also developed a fondness for new exciting territories, such as the landscapes of Italy. Lanyon served in Italy during the Second World War from 1943 to 1945 as a flight mechanic for the RAF. During these two years, he learned Italian while travelling around the southern provinces and found time to paint, draw and take photographs.
In 1952 Lanyon was awarded an Italian government scholarship and the chance again to travel to Italy, the country he described in a letter to Roland Bowden as his ‘second home’ (7th May 1952, Tate Archive, TGA 942.3). In January 1953 Lanyon travelled to Rome where he spent two weeks, before settling in the small, rural hill town of Anticoli Corrado, in the Abruzzi Mountains, where he remained until May. Here in Anticoli Corrado, Lanyon established his studio, the Studio Cicarelli, which was situated on the road leading to the village of Saracinesco. In several visits to Italy – another occurred in 1957 when he returned to Anticoli – Lanyon steadily built a large body of work that was crafted from his experiences, important works including, Saracinesco, Nemi, Albano and Dry Wind. A keen walker, Lanyon would explore the hilltop towns that surrounded him on foot, giving the rich textures of his Italian landscapes depth and personal meaning. For Lanyon, his time in Anticoli and his ‘exploration of the surrounding region represented a return to a more primitive way of life, the recovery of lost traditions and human relations and, as a consequence, a renewed interest in myth’.
Dry Wind is an example in the loosening of Lanyon’s technique that occurred during and after his time spent in Italy. The paint has been applied and smeared with a large brush that creates impulsiveness in the brush strokes and dances across the board with fast and vivid movement. Lanyon’s rich palette captures the climate of his Italian retreat and the dry, wild winds of the mountains whip and furl around the canvas in bright strokes of white and blue. It is the spontaneous expressivity found in Dry Wind that demonstrates Lanyon’s ability to suggest both the form of his landscape and the weather that shapes it. Viewers are bathed in the warm sunlit tones of a deep-sky blue whilst the brown, iron-red earth beneath their feet grounds the composition against the strength of mountain’s dry wind.
In a lecture that was recorded in 1962 for the British Council, Peter Lanyon introduced himself with an overview of his past output. He spoke of his fascination with the edges of landscape and how differing elements can be introduced to start new and bold explorations: ‘I like to paint places where solids and fluids come together, such as the meeting of the sea and cliff, of wind and rock, of human body and water’.
Peter Lanyon, Saracinesco, 1954.
Oil on hardboard: 52 ¼ x 47 ½ in / 133 x 121 cm.
Plymouth City Council: Museum and Art Gallery.
St. Ives, Cornwall 1918 – 1964 Taunton, Somerset
Peter Lanyon was born on 8th February 1918 in St. Ives, Cornwall, the only son of Herbert Lanyon, a semi-professional musician and photographer. Following a private education at Clifton College near Bristol, Lanyon enrolled at Penzance School of Art in 1936. He supplemented this formal training with private lessons under the painter Borlase Smart (1881–1947). In 1937 he met Adrian Stokes, whose writing and aesthetic theories dramatically affected his work. After a trip with his mother and sister to South Africa in 1938 and a period of depression, Lanyon enrolled at the Euston Road School in London in May 1939, as advised by Stokes. Though he stayed for no more than two months, his principal teachers being William Coldstream and Victor Pasmore; he believed the experience was ‘exceedingly good training’.
Having returned to Cornwall, Lanyon noted the disintegration of his painting in July/August, but was once more aided by Stokes who suggested he take lessons with Ben Nicholson, which began in September 1939. Receiving direction in formal aspects of abstract composition from a leading figure of British Modernism led Lanyon into experiments with reliefs and constructions, such as his White Track and Box Construction No. 1. Throughout the 1940s the influence of Nicholson, as well as Naum Gabo and to a lesser extent Barbara Hepworth, was visible in his work. Lanyon enlisted at the age of twenty and served in the Royal Air Force in North Africa, Palestine and Italy. In 1946 he married Sheila St. John Browne and they had six children between 1947 and 1957. After World War II Lanyon was actively involved with the Crypt group and was a founder member of the Penwith School of Art in 1949.
Lanyon had his first one-man exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery in London in 1950 and began teaching at the Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, until 1957. From 1957-60 he ran an art school, St Peter’s Loft at St. Ives with Terry Frost and William Redgrave. In 1957 he visited New York for a one-man exhibition at the Catherine Viviano Gallery, where he met Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell.
Lanyon began gliding in 1959, as he explained 'to get a more complete knowledge of the landscape'. The lack of a source of power, other than the natural air currents on which one flies, makes gliding a far more elemental experience than motorised flying. For Lanyon it was like being a bird; a solitary experience in which one must apply an in depth knowledge of natural phenomena. This encounter with the movement of air over different types of land and sea, and the “bird’s-eye-view” of topography he came to understand as a result of gliding, was incorporated into his vision as an artist. It evidently had a great visual impact on his painting and print-making. Sadly though, what had been a source of creativity for Lanyon also became one of destruction; Lanyon died from injuries incurred in a gliding accident on 31st August 1964 at Taunton.
 Andrew Causey, Peter Lanyon, Aidan Ellis Publishing, Henley-on-Thames, 1971, p. 13.
 Chris Stephens, Peter Lanyon, At the Edge of Landscape, London, 2000, p. 117.
 Peter Lanyon, recorded in 1962, reproduced in Alan Bowness (introduction), Peter Lanyon, London, Tate, 1968.