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 1965 and inscribed on the reverse

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SP 4622



Headingly, Leeds 1920 – 1999 Zennor


Orange, Yellow, Dull Green and White : August 1965


Signed Patrick Heron, dated August 1965 and inscribed with the title on the reverse

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, 1965 (B39008)

Private collection, UK



London, Waddington Galleries, Patrick Heron, May 1967

Richard Demarco Gallery, Patrick Heron Retrospective, June – July 1967, no. 22, illustrated

Kunstverein in Hamburg, Britisch Kunst Heute, 20th March – 12th May, 1968, no. 18, illustrated 



‘Painting has still a continent left to explore, in the direction of colour (and in no other direction)…One reels at the colour possibilities now: the 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’ (The artist, ‘A Note on My Painting, 1962’, Patrick Heron, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich, 1963). 


While maintaining the constancy of his preoccupation with colour, the present work demonstrates once again Heron’s extraordinary diversity of manner and 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, ‘If I stand only eighteen inches away from a fifteen-foot canvas that is uniformly covered in a single shade of red, say, my vision being entirely monopolized by red I shall cease within a matter of seconds to be fully conscious of that red: the redness of that red will not be restored until a fragment of another colour is allowed to intrude, setting up a reaction.  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’ (Patrick Heron, ‘Colour in my painting: 1969’, Studio International, December 1969).



Heron’s paintings from this period are frequently large in size and were produced in a very specific way.  The forms were drawn very 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 Heron denied external references in his non-figurative works, it is tempting to draw parallels between his evocative forms and the inspirational environment surrounding his home at Eagles Nest, such as ‘eroded rocks, harbours and coves along the Cornish coast’ (Vivian Knight (ed.), Patrick Heron, John Taylor/Lund Humphries, London, 1988, p. 13).





Headingly, Leeds 1920 – 1999 Zennor


Although Heron was born at Headingly, Leeds, much of his childhood was spent in West Cornwall.   His father was a manufacturer who founded Cresta Silks and employed such artists as Paul Nash, Cedric Morris and McKnight Kauffer.   Heron studied part-time at the Slade School of Art between 1937 and 1939, and during the Second World War, as a conscientious objector, he worked as a farm labourer and later as an assistant in the Bernard Leach Pottery, St Ives from 1944-1945, where he met Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and many other leading artists of the St Ives School.   Considerably influenced by Braque and Matisse, his early figurative works included interiors, landscape and still lifes.   During this period Heron was also an influential art critic, writing for the New English Weekly from 1945-1947, New Statesman and Nation from 1947-1950, the London correspondent for Arts, New York, from 1955 to 1958, and published his important book The 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 at the Redfern Gallery 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; many of the sharp-edged shapes are reminiscent of the aged Cornish coastline, while the rounded shapes recall the granite boulders in his garden.  During the 1980s, Heron returned to a looser compositional format with scumbled surfaces but retained his interest in vibrant colour. 


Heron won the Grand Prize at the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition in 1959 and a silver medal at the Sao Paolo Bienal in 1965.    He had retrospective exhibitions at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1972 and at the Barbican Art Gallery in 1985; the same year he was included in the St Ives Exhibition at the Tate Gallery.   He was created a CBE in 1977 and became a Trustee of the Tate Gallery in 1980.   He died peacefully at his home in Zennor, Cornwall, in March 1999 at the age of 79.





Post War BritishPatrick Heron