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Sir Cedric Lockwood  Morris, 9th Bt. - Newlyn Harbour from Trewartha St.

Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris, 9th Bt.

Newlyn Harbour from Trewartha St.

Oil on canvas: 24(h) x 30(w) in / 61(h) x 76.2(w) cm
Signed and dated '47 lower left

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BZ 111

 

SIR CEDRIC LOCKWOOD MORRIS, 9th Bt.

Sketty, Swansea 1889 – 1982 Ipswich

 

Newlyn Harbour from Trewartha Street

 

Signed and dated lower left: Cedric Morris /- 47

Oil on canvas: 24 x 30 in / 61 x 76.2 cm

Frame size: 29 1/2 x 39 3/4 in / 74.9 x 101 cm

 

Provenance:

The artist;

The Ixion Society, Benton End, Hadleigh[1];

Professor Bryan Brooke (1915-1998), acquired from the above;

by descent

 

Literature:

Cedric Morris to Arthur Lett-Haines, 1st November 1947, MS in Cedric Morris archive, Tate Britain, inv. no.8317-1-4-126

Cedric Morris to Arthur Lett-Haines, 11th November 1947, MS in Cedric Morris archive, Tate Britain, inv. no.8317-1-4-127

 

 

 

Cedric Morris was inspired by Newlyn throughout his career. Cedric and his partner Arthur Lett-Haines settled in the Cornish fishing village in 1919, attracted by an established painting community centred around the school founded by Stanhope Forbes (1857-1947). They lived first at Vine Cottage and then at The Bowgie, a ‘Futuristic abode’[2] that was the scene of many a wild party attended by the avant-garde artists of their generation. In the first half of the 1920s Cedric and Lett divided their time between Britain and France, mixing in Paris with those at the forefront of Modernism, including Fernand Léger, Juan Gris, Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound. They returned to Cornwall throughout the decade, often visiting the New Zealand-born artist Frances Hodgkins in St Ives.

 

This painting was made in November 1947, when Cedric was staying with his sister Nancy, also a painter, at Myrtle Cottage in Newlyn. She was in the midst of a psychological crisis caused by yet another complicated love affair. Morris plays with the shapes of the sturdy, slate-roofed fishermen’s cottages that march down the steep hill toward the harbour. Non-naturalistic perspective makes us examine the scene with a fresh eye. A palette of slate blue, grey, subdued mustard and brown interlocks the composition tonally, while the warm red brick of chimneys and roof lines adds liveliness and defines the complex geometrical composition. Morris revels in the viscous quality of oil paint, which he uses with great subtlety, from the light glancing off the roof tiles to the water of the harbour. Despite the subdued autumn weather, the harbour water shifts gently, reflecting the radiance of Cornish light which had enticed so many artists to the area.

 

The instinctive, direct vision of Newlyn Harbour from Trewartha Street owes a debt to the self-taught, ‘primitive’ painter Alfred Wallis, a Newlyn fisherman who took up art after his wife died in 1922. He painted harbour scenes and the boats which he understood so well on scraps of cardboard, with a haunting, childlike power. Wallis is said to have been ‘discovered’ by Christopher Wood and Ben Nicholson in 1928, although Morris claimed to have met him several years earlier. Morris’s Newlyn Harbour avoids faux-naïveté, but retains something of Wallis’s untrammelled spirit.

 

On 1st November 1947 Cedric wrote of his painting campaign in Newlyn to Lett back at home in Suffolk. He complained of the discomforts of Nancy’s cottage, of having to sleep on the couch and the bad food (Lett was an excellent cook). On the bright side, he records ‘I have painted 2 pictures, big ones and hope to do some more – difficulty being to get anywhere to do them from and to keep warm’. He adds waspishly: ‘I don’t like female society and get nothing else – the usual spies drunks & loose women abound’[3]. A letter of 11th November reports: ‘Have now painted 5 pictures & only have one more canvas left – not quite as calm and collected as they should have been I am afraid’[4]. However, despite the spartan living and the febrile atmosphere of Nancy’s house, in Newlyn Harbour Cedric evokes the unique quality of England’s Celtic south-western peninsula.

 

Cedric Morris had a devoted following in his lifetime and many of his works were bought by friends and pupils of his East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing. This painting was owned by the distinguished surgeon Professor Bryan Brooke (1915-1998). In his spare time Professor Brooke was ‘a skilful potter and carpenter, but his deepest passion was for painting. He took it very seriously and felt that it was far more than a hobby’[5]. He spent much time in the 1950s and 60s at the East Anglian School and was President of the Medical Art Society. Newlyn Harbour has descended in his family.

 

 

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. He 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 Lett Haines, 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 sell-out. A 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, becoming a renowned breeder of irises. 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’[6]. Thereafter Morris 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 1940 (gleefully applauded by Sir Alfred Munnings, who hated modern art) the school, as well as Cedric and Lett’s home, moved to Benton End, Hadleigh, Suffolk, where another marvellous garden was created. Students 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] The Ixion Society was a ‘selling company’ created by Cedric Morris’s partner and fellow artist Lett Haines (who managed the practical side of their life together) to sell his pictures. We are grateful to Jonathan Benson, a Trustee of the Morris Estate, for this information.

[2] Frances Hodgkins to Rachel Hodgkins, 15th May 1920, quoted in Nathaniel Hepburn, Cedric Morris & Christopher Wood: A Forgotten Friendship, p.11.

[3] Cedric Morris to Arthur Lett-Haines, 1st November 1947, MS in Cedric Morris archive, Tate Britain, inv. no.8307-1-4-126.

[4] Cedric Morris to Arthur Lett-Haines, 11th November 1947, MS in Cedric Morris archive, Tate Britain, inv. no.8317-1-4-127.

[5] Obituary in The Independent, 2nd October 1998.

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