Patrick Heron

Complex Emerald, Violet, Orange, Red, Blue and Ochre : March 1970

Gouache: 23.4(h) x 30.6(w) in /

59.4(h) x 77.8(w) cm

Signed, inscribed and dated 1970 on the reverse

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BX 217

 

PATRICK HERON

Headingly 1920 – 1999 Zennor

 

Complex Emerald, Violet, Orange, Red, Blue and Ochre : March 1970

 

Signed, dated and inscribed on the reverse: PATRICK HERON / COMPLEX EMERALD, VIOLET, ORANGE, RED, BLUE AND OCHRE : MARCH 1970

Gouache: 23 ⅜ x 30 ⅝ in / 59.4 x 77.8 cm

 

Provenance:

Waddington and Tooth Galleries, London [WGA 4365]

Diane L. Ackerman, New York, acquired from the above or directly from the artist, between 1974-78

 

 

In the summer of 1967 Heron badly broke his leg in a canoeing accident with Bryan Wynter at Lamorna Cove. Consequently, he was unable to paint a single canvas for almost a year and turned his attention to the exploration of a smaller-scale, more fluid medium (which could be done in a seated position): gouache. Though born of necessity, Heron maintained his works in gouache were ‘not a substitute for the oil paintings. Nor are they preliminary sketches, or means for trying out new colour-shapes or configurations of dovetailed colour-shapes to feature in later paintings on canvas. They are works in their own right ; and their quality, in fact, doesn’t even overlap with the canvases’ in many respectsIn my gouaches, the tempo is dictated, quite apart from the particular needs of the area-shapes I make, by the nature of the wet medium itself. I like the water in the paint mixture to lead me ; to suggest the scribbled drawing which gives birth to the images. My gouaches have always had this fast-moving fluidity of drawing, and a softness, coming from the watery medium itself, which the oil paintings cannot share.’[1]

 

The complex depths and delights of this striking gouache brilliantly demonstrate the fluidity, vibrance and opacity of the medium and Heron’s mastery of it. Five floating forms are suspended against the deep violet ground, its dominance and breadth perhaps in homage to the material’s watery nature and effects. The luminous colour-forms feather, their edges tapering fronds like coral, illuminated by the bright white ground. Heron later recalled ‘That flooding was an accident which I welcomed with both arms.’ Shapes and colours, he continued, as well as ‘the matter of the paint, the material of the paint, and the brush-strokes which render it onto the surface. These things should be indissolubly united.’[2]

 

 

 

PATRICK HERON

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 Gouaches’ written to accompany an exhibition at the Caledonian Club, Edinburgh, 1985 cited in Vivien Knight (ed.), Patrick Heron, John Taylor in association with Lund Humphries, 1988, p.38.

[2] Patrick Heron in Patrick Heron, exh. cat., Tate Publishing, 1998, pp.45-46.

Post War BritishPatrick Heron