Patrick Heron

The jardinière : 1948

Oil on canvas: 30(h) x 25(w) in /

76.2(h) x 63.5(w) cm

Signed and dated lower left: P. Heron / '48

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CL 3526



Headingly 1920 – 1999 Zennor


The jardinière : 1948


Signed and dated lower left: P. Heron ’48

Oil on canvas: 30 x 25 in / 76.2 x 63.5 cm

Framed size: 39 ½ x 34 ½ in / 100.3 x 87.6 cm

In its original frame



Redfern Gallery, London,

Humphrey Toulmin, 4th December 1948, then by descent

Richard Green, London

Private collection, UK



London, Redfern Gallery, Patrick Heron / Ian Fairweather, 28th October – 20th November 1948, no.4

Wakefield City Art Gallery, Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Patrick Heron, 5th April – 3rd May 1952, no.38: this exhibition travelled to Leeds University, 10th May – 24th May, Halifax, Bankfield Museum, 31st May – 28th June, Scarborough Art Gallery, 19th July – 10th August and Hull, The Ferens Art Gallery, 30th Aug – 21st September, lent by Mrs Violet Toulmin



Vivien Knight (ed.), Patrick Heron, Lund Humphries, London, 1988, no.7, illus.



The jardinière belongs to a series of mature early works by Patrick Heron on the theme of interiors and windows, using conventional subject matter in a figurative style to explore the dynamic expression of pictorial space with colour, line, texture and rhythm. Heron recalled: ‘The feeling of a sort of marriage of indoor and outdoor space, through the aperture of the window frame, itself roughly rectilinear and parallel to the picture surface, was really the main theme of all my paintings – or nearly all – between 1945 and 1955.’[1] For AS Byatt, ‘the exciting linear dance’ characteristic of this period concerns ‘lines of light and lines of vision…drawings and redrawings by the dancing eye and mind of multiple aspects and multiple focusses.’[2]


The restless linear rhythm of the transparent jardinière can be found throughout this impressive upright canvas. Though little can be seen outside the window, which acts more like a mirror, its hazy green/blue glow and thick yellow borders suggest strong sunshine, reinforced by the dazzling white light which falls in diagonal stripes across the window ledge and (left as bare canvas highlights) traces the lines of the plant stand like dew on a spider’s web. The three house-plants, whose zig-zag stems echo the ornate metal-work, seem to dissolve and reappear in the dappled sunshine on both sides of the window, causing the eye to continually re-adjust to ‘the contrasts of recessional illusion and decorative flatness, of pictorial space and surface pattern.’[3] It is likely that Heron painted from memory rather than the motif (either at 53 Addison Avenue, Holland Park, London or 3 St Andrews Street in St Ives), a strategy which Andrew Wilson suggests ‘emphasises his absolute absorption in a visual world but also the detachment that enabled him to crystallise the formal, pictorial essence of what he had seen.’[4]


At this decisive point in his career, Heron, already a perceptive and sophisticated artist, had developed not only his own voice as an art critic, but also his own distinct visual language in painting. Writing of the inspiration behind his stylistic advances at this time, Heron stated ‘From Braque came the idea of the ‘transparency’ of the objects…On the other hand, the nature of my charcoal drawing is far removed from Braque…in their lose and speedy linearity these charcoal grids are, therefore, if anything, nearer Matisse.’[5] The importance of Matisse and in particular The Red Studio, 1911 (Museum of Modern, New York), which Heron frequently visited on display at the Redfern Gallery, London in 1943-45 and declared to be ‘the most influential single painting in my entire career’, can be seen in the transparency of the leaves and plant pots, the ambiguity of perspective, the compositional rhythm and creation of space in planes of pure colour. Although Heron fully acknowledged the importance of significant French masters, these key influences were fully integrated into a style undeniably his own. 

















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 cited in Mel Gooding, Patrick Heron, Phaidon Press, 1994, p.74. 

[2] AS Byatt, Patrick Heron Early Paintings 1945-1955, exh. cat. Waddington Galleries, London, 2000, np.

[3] Mel Gooding, Patrick Heron, op.cit., p.67.

[4] Andrew Wilson, Patrick Heron, exh. cat., Tate Publishing, 2018, p.11.

[5] Patrick Heron cited in Mel Gooding, Patrick Heron, op.cit., p.75.

Post War BritishPatrick Heron