Patrick Heron

Orange, yellow, dull green and white : August 1965

Oil on canvas: 38(h) x 48(w) in /

96.5(h) x 121.9(w) cm

Signed, dated and inscribed on the reverse: ORANGE, YELLOW, / DULL GREEN AND / WHITE : AUGUST / 1965 / PATRICK HERON

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SP 4622



Headingly 1920 – 1999 Zennor


Orange, yellow, dull green and white : August 1965


Signed, dated and inscribed on the reverse: ORANGE, YELLOW, / DULL GREEN AND / WHITE : AUGUST / 1965 /

Oil on canvas: 38 x 48 in / 96.5 x 121.9 cm

Framed size: 45 ½ x 55 in / 115.6 x 139.7 cm



Waddington Galleries, London

Private collection, UK



London, Waddington Galleries, Patrick Heron, May 1967

Edinburgh, Richard Demarco Gallery, Patrick Heron Retrospective, June – July 1967, cat. no.83, illus. no. 22

Hamburg, Kunstverein, Britische Kunst Heute, 20th March – 12th May, 1968, no.18, illus. 



While maintaining the constancy of his preoccupation with colour, the present work demonstrates once again Heron’s extraordinary diversity of manner and his tendency towards abrupt stylistic change. From the mid 1960s, Heron developed what he described as his ‘wobbly hard-edged’ paintings, referring to the interaction between colours in which he sought to intensify their visual impact by sharpening the boundaries that separated them. The brilliance of Heron’s pure, unmixed colours is therefore a result not only of their juxtaposition, but more specifically their precise, irregular division. The jigsaw-like arrangement of asymmetric colour planes, rounded rectangles and uneven discs sets up a vital interplay of dynamic forms whose inconsistent spatial relations suggest movement and energy.


Writing four years after the present work was painted, Heron explained, ‘It is in this interaction between differing colours that our full awareness of any of them lies. So the meeting lines between areas of colour are utterly crucial to our apprehension of the actual hue of those areas: the linear character of these frontiers cannot avoid changing our sensation of the colour in those areas…The line changes the colour of the colours on either side of it.’[1] Heron’s paintings from this period are frequently large in size and were produced in a very specific way. The forms were drawn quickly and spontaneously onto the prepared canvas and then each area of pure unmixed colour was painted with small, soft brushes. Each colour had to be painted in one layer during a single session to ensure that the colours were uniform.  


Though he initially resisted the idea of external references in his non-figurative works, Heron later accepted the connection between his paintings and the inspirational landscape setting of his home at Eagles Nest, such as ‘eroded rocks, harbours and coves along the Cornish coast.’[2] In his essay ‘My Painting Now’ written in 1987, Heron described the unconscious correspondence ‘between the ‘square-round’ shapes of the hedges at Eagles Nest (clipped this way by Heron to resist the coastal gales) and the granite rocks and boulders of the landscape beyond, which in turn find their echo in the abstract colour-shapes of his pictorial vocabulary.’[3]


In the same year that he painted the present work, Heron represented Great Britain with Victor Pasmore at the VIII Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil and was awarded a Silver Medal. While continuing to push the boundaries of his own painting practice in the mid 1960s, Heron championed the cause of British painters in general on the international stage in the face of American dominance, writing in 1966 ‘in Britain today there are not one but three generations of painters whose vitality, persistent energy, inventiveness and sheer sensibility is not equalled anywhere else in the world. Furthermore, these three generations are linked in an organic historical relationship…an absolutely essential condition for the emergence of major painting in any county.’[4]





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, ‘Colour in my painting: 1969’, Studio International, December 1969 cited in Vivien Knight (ed.), Patrick Heron, John Taylor in association with Lund Humphries, 1988, p.34.

[2] Vivien Knight (ed.), op.cit., p.13.

[3] Sarah Martin, ‘Heron’s Paintings of the 1980s and 1990s’, Patrick Heron, exh. cat., Tate Publishing, 2018, p.124.

[4] Patrick Heron, ‘The Ascendancy of London in the Sixties’ Studio International, December 1966 cited in Mel Gooding (ed.), Painter as Critic. Patrick Heron: Selected Writings, Tate Publishing, 2001, p.156. See also Heron’s ‘A Kind of Cultural Imperialism’, Studio International, February 1968.


Post War BritishPatrick Heron