Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris, 9th Bt.

Panel of flowers, September 1929

Oil on canvas: 24(h) x 20(w) in /

61(h) x 50.8(w) cm

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BV 205

 

SIR CEDRIC LOCKWOOD MORRIS, 9th Bt.

Sketty, Swansea 1889 – 1982 Ipswich

 

Panel of flowers, September 1929

 

Signed and dated lower left: CEDRIC MORRIS / 29;

titled on a label on the stretcher

Oil on canvas: 24 x 20 in / 61.2 x 50.8 cm

Frame size: 31 x 27 in / 78.7 x 68.6 cm

In its original restored frame

 

Provenance:

Sir Rex Cohen (1906-1988) and by family descent

Private collection, UK

 

 

This painting captures the spirit of a glowing, late summer border, with flowers jostling for attention against an abstract, yellow-green background. Morris uses colour to move the eye around the canvas and to impose a harmonious composition on unfettered natural abundance. He overlaps flowers to striking effect, for example placing a blue Michaelmas daisy against the frilled sphere of a deep burgundy double dahlia.

 

As with most of Morris’s paintings of the 1920s, the work is richly impasted, so much so that the artist traces his signature with the wooden end of his brush in the thick paint. The rose of Sharon at bottom right, set against emerald green foliage, is almost sculptural, with its golden petals and crown of stamens brimming with red pollen. The antirrhinums are painted with a bravura that nevertheless exquisitely conveys the structure of the flowers and the gradations of colour on a single bloom.

 

The painting comes from the collection of Sir Rex Cohen (1906-1988), owner of Lewis’s, the celebrated Liverpool department store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SIR CEDRIC LOCKWOOD MORRIS, 9th Bt.

Sketty, Swansea 1889 – 1982 Ipswich

 

Cedric Morris, one of the most original British painters of the twentieth century, was the son of the iron magnate George Lockwood Morris, 8th Bt., and descended from a line of Welsh industrialists whose founder, Sir John Morris (1745-1819) had been a patron of Reynolds and brother of Margaret Desenfans, co-founder of Dulwich Picture Gallery. In 1914 Morris studied at the Académie Delacluse in Paris, before spending the First World War in the Army Remount Service with Alfred Munnings and Cecil Aldin. In 1918 Morris met his lifelong partner, the artist Arthur Lett-Haines (always known as Lett), and the pair settled in Newlyn, Cornwall.

 

In 1920 Cedric and Lett moved to Paris where, great party-goers and -givers, their circle included Duchamp, Gris, Léger, Peggy Guggenheim, Nancy Cunard and Hemingway. Morris was influenced by abstraction although he continued to paint bold, almost naïve landscapes, incisive portraits and Parisian genre pieces. He had his first well-received London exhibition in 1924. Two years later he settled with Lett in London, becoming a member of the Seven and Five Society at the same time as Christopher Wood, who influenced him.

 

Morris’s 1928 exhibition at Arthur Tooth, which included some of his powerful and mysterious animal paintings, was a sellout. A gentle countryman who liked to paint with his pet rabbit Maria Marten perched on his shoulder, Morris seemed to distil the essence of flowers, birds and animals in colourful, richly-textured works. Wry humour, and his admiration for Italian ‘primitives’ such as Piero della Francesca, is apparent in a work of 1926, The entry of moral turpitude into New York (private collection, England), sparked by the American authorities’ refusal to let a divorced, titled Englishwoman enter the USA.

 

In 1929 Morris moved to Pound Farm, Higham in Suffolk, inheriting the house from his landlady and student Mrs Vivien Doyle Jones in 1932. There he created a memorable garden. In the 1930s, deeply distressed by the effects of the Depression in his native Wales, Morris made many trips back to his birthplace, organising an exhibition of Welsh Contemporary Art at Aberystwyth and becoming involved with an art centre for the unemployed at Gwernllwyn House, Dowlais.

 

Already disillusioned with the wiles of London dealers, Morris nevertheless went ahead with an exhibition of portraits at Guggenheim Jeune Gallery in 1938. A guest so objected to his work that he began to burn the catalogues and Morris hit him: ‘the walls of the gallery were spattered with blood’[1]. Thereafter Morris largely abandoned the London art scene. The previous year he and Lett had set up the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham, Essex. When the building caught fire in 1939 (gleefully applauded by Sir Alfred Munnings, who hated modern art) the school, as well as Cedric and Lett’s home, moved the following year to Benton End, Hadleigh, Suffolk, where another marvellous garden was created. The pair travelled extensively in southern Europe in the winter, plant-collecting; Cedric became renowned as a breeder of irises and poppies. Students of the East Anglian School were given creative freedom as well as a solid grounding in technique (not to mention the benefits of Lett’s superb cooking). Alumni include Lucian Freud (who imbibed Morris’s method of painting directly on to canvas, without underdrawing) and Maggi Hambling. Failing sight caused Cedric Morris to give up painting in 1975, but he was still gardening at the age of ninety-one in 1981; he died in Ipswich the following year.

 

The work of Cedric Morris is represented in Tate Britain, London; the V&A, London; the National Portrait Gallery, London; the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff; the Musée du Petit Palais, Geneva; the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp and the City Art Gallery, Auckland.

[1] Quoted in Morphet, ibid., p.54.

Modern BritishSir Cedric Lockwood Morris, 9th Bt.