Patrick Heron

Mainly greens : 13 May 1964

Oil on canvas: 30(h) x 40(w) in /

76.2(h) x 101.6(w) cm

Signed, dated and inscribed on the reverse: PATRICK HERON / MAINLY GREENS : / MAY 13 : 64

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BV 155

 

PATRICK HERON

Headingley 1920 – 1999 Zennor

 

Mainly greens : 13 May 1964

 

Signed, dated and inscribed on the reverse:

PATRICK HERON / MAINLY GREENS : / MAY 13 : 64

Oil on canvas: 30 x 40 in / 76.2 x 101.6 cm

Frame size: 31 x 41 in / 78.7 x 104.1 cm

 

Provenance:

Waddington Galleries, London

David Thomson, 11th March 1986, acquired from the above

Waddington Galleries, London

Lord Peter Palumbo, February 1991, acquired from the above

 

Exhibited:

London, Waddington Galleries, Patrick Heron, 24th November – 19th December 1964, no.2

 

 

As eloquent in print as he was expressive in paint, Heron stated the year before the present work was painted, ‘For a very long time, now, I have realized 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.’[1] To emphasise their pre-eminence, colours became the principal titles in Heron’s work, here dominated by opposing brilliant and muted shades of green, bordered and balanced to the left by a similar, but slighter juxtaposition of reds. In the artist’s intuitive process, ‘area-shapes’ were determined by the application of saturated colour and balanced by their dynamic interaction, here including ragged, asymmetric oblongs and one soft-edged ‘lopsided disc inside an uneven square’ in the bottom left corner, a favourite shape (or colour-form) of the artist.[2] The bright, vivid shades of spring green and vermillion markedly advance as the rich, passive colours of dull green and dark red recede. Each colour applied in broad, swirling strokes visible to the naked eye and creating a lively surface without detracting from the purity of colour or certainty of form. Mainly greens is a clear and intense expression of Heron’s delight in colour’s ‘varied and contrasting intensities, opacities, transparencies; the seeming density and weight, warmth, coolness, vibrancy; or the superbly inert ‘dull’ colours – such as the marvellously uneventful expanses of the surface of an old green door in the sunlight.’[3]

 

As writer and art critic, Heron had been contemplating abstraction since his first published article in 1945. He began to experiment with purely abstract painting in 1952, and in the winter of 1955-56 started to pursue a radical non-figurative approach in a series of Tachiste[4] works that reflect a period of dramatic innovation and rapid change. These paintings preceded and in some cases coincided with Heron’s effervescent Garden series (inspired by the move to Eagles Nest, Zennor, Cornwall in April 1956), while anticipating the elongated brushstrokes of his Stripe paintings developed the following year. Freed from ‘that troublesome entity, the subject’[5] Heron felt able ‘to deal more directly and inventively (I hope) with every single aspect of the painting that is purely pictorial, i.e. the architecture of the canvas, the spatial interrelation of each and every touch (or stroke, or bar) of colour, the colour character, the paint-character of a painting – all these I now explore with a sense of freedom quite denied me when I still had to keep half an eye on a ‘subject’.’[6]

 

 

 

PATRICK HERON CBE

Headingly 1920 – 1999 Zennor

 

 

Although Heron was born at Headingly, Leeds, much of his childhood was spent in West Cornwall. His father was a blouse manufacturer and founder of Cresta Silks, commissioning artists including Paul Nash and Cedric Morris. Heron studied part-time at the Slade School of Art between 1937-39. During the Second World War, he registered as a conscientious objector, working as an agricultural labourer and later as an assistant at the Bernard Leach Pottery, St Ives from 1944-45, during which time he met Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. In 1945, Heron married Delia Reiss and moved to London, making annual summer trips to Cornwall. He held his first solo exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in 1947 (and continued to exhibit with the gallery until 1958), visiting Paris for the first time the same year. During this period Heron was also an influential art critic, writing for the New English Weekly from 1945-47, New Statesman and Nation from 1947-50, the London correspondent for Arts, New York, from 1955-58, and published an anthology of his critical writing, Changing Forms of Art in 1955.

 

Heron painted his first purely abstract paintings in 1952 and after a brief return to figuration, executed works in a tachiste style from 1955, prior to the exhibition Modern Art in the United States at the Tate Gallery in 1956. This change to abstraction coincided with his move to Eagles Nest, Zennor, and the following year he exhibited his first stripe paintings in a group exhibition entitled Metavisual, Tachiste, Abstract. In 1958, he moved to Ben Nicholson’s former studio at Porthmeor and began to introduce the shapes that were to characterise his paintings of the 1960s and 1970s. He also joined Waddington Galleries, where he would exhibit for the rest of his career. Heron visited Australia in 1967, 1973 and in 1989-90, as Artist in Residence at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.

 

Heron won the Grand Prize at the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition in 1959 and a silver medal at the São Paolo Bienal in 1965. He had several retrospective exhibitions throughout his career including at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1972, at the Barbican Art Gallery in 1985 and at the Tate Gallery in 1998. He was created CBE in 1977 and became a Trustee of the Tate Gallery in 1980 until 1987. He died peacefully at his home in Zennor, Cornwall, in March 1999 at the age of 79.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Patrick Heron ‘A Note on my Painting’, exh. cat. Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich, 1963 cited in Mel Gooding (ed.), Painter as Critic. Patrick Heron: Selected Writings, Tate Publishing, 2001, p.154.

[2] Patrick Heron ‘A Note on my Painting’, ibid. p.154.

[3] Patrick Heron, ‘A Note on my Painting’, ibid, p.154.

[4] Derived from the French word tache meaning stain or mark.

[5] Cited in Mel Gooding, Patrick Heron, Phaidon Press, 1994, p.95.

[6] Patrick Heron, ‘Statements’ – a review of British abstract art in 1956, exh. cat., ICA, London, 1957 cited in Vivien Knight (ed.), Patrick Heron, John Taylor in association with Lund Humphries, 1988, p.29.

Post War BritishPatrick Heron