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- Peter Lanyon, Winter Landscape, Anticoli Corrado, Watercolor, Gouache, 1953
Peter Lanyon, Winter Landscape, Anticoli Corrado, Watercolor, Gouache, 1953
Peter Lanyon (British, 1918-1964) Winter Landscape, Anticoli Corrado Signed 'Lanyon' and dated 'Jan 53' (lower left), Further signed, Inscribed and dated again 'WINTER LANDSCAPE/ANTICOLI CORRADO/Peter Lanyon 1953' by the artist on a label attached to the backboard Watercolour and gouache Provenance: Private Collection. Purchased Christies, 8th June, 1979, lot 212 Related to: Anticoli Hills circa 1953, Crayon and watercolour on paper support: 416 x 519 mm, on paper. Tate Collection Purchased 1991. T06458 Literature: Chris Stephens, Peter Lanyon, At the Edge of Landscape, 21 Publishing, London, 2000, p.115. Toby Trewes, Peter Lanyon catalogue raisonné Sheet size Height 32cm., 12 ½ in.,Length 36 cm., 14 1/4 in., In an Italian, black and gilded, cassetta frame. Frame Height 55 ½ cm, 22 in. Length 51 cm, 20 in.,
In Winter Landscape, Lanyon creates a powerful allusion to landscape without resorting to specific reference. The palette, full of misty greys, earthy browns and whites reflects the appearance and atmosphere of the town in the winter months, and the small band of purple and emerald green inject vibrant energy into the composition.
Peter Lanyon was the only native-born Cornishman of the post-war St Ives group of artists, and his work reflected the local landscape with a painterly experimentation unmatched by his peers. Surprisingly, a little-known relationship with Italy informed some of his best work done in Cornwall. In January 1953 Lanyon settled in Anticoli Corrado, a steeply rising hill town in the Abruzzi mountains, having won an Italian government scholarship for travel to Italy. He rented 'Studio Cicarelli' which was on the track that led to the village of Saracinesco. He was to remain there for just over three months, leaving in early May. Though its artistic heyday was on the wane by the 1950s, Anticoli Corrado still had many artists' studios at its disposal and was very similar in atmosphere to St.Ives. The British connection was strengthened in being the home of the director of the British School in Rome, which was frequented by British artists.
Lanyon found the release from Cornwall inspiring. His stay in the town and exploration of the surrounding region represented a return to a more primitive way of life, the recovery of lost traditions and human relations and, as a consequence, a renewed interest in myth. His palette opened up to reveal stronger, more sensuous colours. In his pocket diary for 1953 Lanyon notes down that he has made 24 gouaches and drawings while in Italy that winter, and this is one of the series. Lanyon took very well to Italy, having spent several years there during the war and in 1948 and 1950, and even described it as his 'second home'. Lanyon returned to Anticoli Corrado in 1957.
Peter Lanyon (British, 1918-1964) Few artists are as closely associated with Cornwall as Peter Lanyon (1918-1964). No article, book or exhibition fails to list the core biographical facts that tie him to West Penwith, the duchy's westernmost tip. Born, raised and buried there, he is the lone native among the major figures of that largely uncontested category known as the post-war St Ives School. And in truth so many of Lanyon's own statements and works carry references to Cornwall that the approach is more than justified. Yet Cornwall was not a simple or stable thing for Lanyon, nor paradoxically was it the only place that fed into his paintings of it. It may seem wilful, even perverse, to explore Lanyon's identification with Cornwall by looking towards Italy, but there are few truisms more true than that which says one must leave home in order to find it.
Peter Lanyon was 25 when he first went to Italy in December 1943. He was a flight mechanic in the RAF and stayed for exactly two years, in which time he learned Italian and travelled the southern provinces, drawing, painting, taking photographs and making constructions when he could. After the war he returned three times: in 1950 with his wife, for a month, in the winter of 1953 for four months and in 1957 for about a week.
Before his arrival in Italy in 1943, Lanyon had found military life difficult. He was often lonely and homesick, and until about the end of 1944 he continued to be. But as the war eased, his spirits rose. In 1945 he was transferred to the RAF's educational department, where he ran an art education programme for servicemen. It thrived and Lanyon, who had a strong sense of the moral and social worth of art, saw within it a model that might be replicated in community centres throughout Britain, including St Ives. Peter Lanyon : The Yellow Runner 1946 Courtesy Abbit Hall Art Gallery and the Lakeland Arts Trust © The estate of Peter Lanyon.
This hope was part of a grander purpose. Writing to his sister in May 1945, he declared: "I maintain that this war is part of a revolution in men's minds, and no years of this life have lessened that belief. We are either the fathers of a new hopeful but austere and courageous world or we are the lost generation."
Impatient to get on with the work of reconstruction, he returned to St Ives in March 1946 with an urgent sense of social mission. Once there he painted The Yellow Runner, a dynamic and joyous picture. At its heart lies a subterranean enclosure replete with dormant life about to be roused by the yellow runner sprinting across the hill in the dawn light. These days the painting is associated with a personal narrative of homecoming, marriage and the birth of his first son, but for an audience in 1947, ignorant of the biographical circumstances in which it was made, the work may have been more readily understood in terms of the return of an heroic generation optimistic about the post-war reconstruction.
The reality of St Ives, a small and fractious community, soon eroded his faith in the ideal he had imagined in Italy. In the ensuing battles over governance and principles of the St Ives Society of Artists and the Penwith Society of Artists, Lanyon began to define himself as a Cornishman among out-of-county "foreigners" and positioned himself as a protector of Cornwall. In the spring of 1950, amid a fierce battle over the Penwith Society of Arts, he published "Face of Penwith" in The Cornish Review, an article indebted to Adrian Stokes's concept of "outwardness". Peter Lanyon :Beast 1953 (destroyed) Plaster
A few months before the publication of "Face of Penwith", Lanyon, who had known Stokes since the late 1930s, had described himself in a draft letter to the editor of The Cornish Review as "an artist whose debt to Stokes may never be paid" and had quoted the following passage from Stokes's The Quattro Cento (1932):
"The process of living is an externalisation, a turning outward into definite form of inner ferment. Hence the mirror to living which art is, hence the significance of art and especially as a crown to other and preliminary arts of the truly visual arts in which time is transposed into forms of space as something instant and revealed. Hence the positive significance to man (as opposed to use) of stone and stone building."
Stokes's conviction that living necessarily involved the revelation, intended or not, of inner states was informed by his experience of Kleinian psychoanalysis. As a mirror of that process, art acquired considerable social significance, particularly at a moment in history, the 1930s, when many of the ills of the world were, he believed, rooted in the repression of interior life. This was the challenge that he thought faced the modern artist, and which he had seen answered in Britain during the 1930s by Hepworth, Nicholson and Moore.
Although Lanyon did not undergo psychoanalysis, he was receptive to Stokes's ideas, particularly in terms of what art is and also how one might understand the manmade world. In "Face of Penwith" he applies Stokes's ideas of authentic revelation and emergence in art to the landscape of West Penwith and the native character of the Cornishman. In it mining, fishing and farming, the industries of Cornwall, are presented as a commerce between the Cornishman and what lies beneath the surface - the tin, the fish and the nutrients. This continuous process of delving down and drawing to the surface is as manifest in the physical structures of those industries (mine works, harbours, fields and farms) strewn over the land as, he argues, in the "centrifugal and centripetal" character of the Cornishman: "A complete trust and desire to give absolutely everything and a converse withdrawal, a returning to a protective native envelope."
Shortly after the article was published, Lanyon and his wife went to Italy, where they spent a month in the north visiting many of the places mentioned in The Quattro Cento. "One must follow the master," he said to Patrick Heron of their holiday in relation to Stokes. Whether Lanyon recognised in these sites the process of externalisation Stokes had identified is not known, but he did discover another living manifestation of it in Anticoli in 1953. Situated in the hills 40 miles east of Rome, Anticoli was an ancient village still tied to a bucolic way of life, where farmyard animals and people lived side by side among the steep narrow streets. Lanyon saw Anticoli as a place where the natural cycle of life, death and reproduction, mediated by myth and tradition, was a revealed process: "Here there is dung on the roads and a pig on the doorstep and a great glorious weaving of busts and arses in and out of the piling houses." The first part of that cycle is memorialised in Primavera, the largest work he made in Anticoli. It was painted as spring came to the mountains and the people of Anticoli and the nearby village of Saracinesco celebrated its arrival with fiestas. Here the painting's hot bright colours vibrate with an energy consonant with the resurgence of life. Photograph by Peter Lanyon of Anticoli Corrado (1953)
The other phases of the cycle, sex and death, emerged most forcefully in the Europa series of 1954-1955, which he considered the culmination of "a long interest in the bull and the woman at Anticoli", and St Just. One of the reasons Lanyon went to Italy in 1953 was to have a break from the painting that would become St Just. He had started the picture in 1951, and it remained unresolved by the end of 1952. Up until then he referred obliquely to it as a crucifixion, but a photograph probably taken shortly before he left for Italy shows no obvious iconographic reference to that theme. Peter Lanyon working on a sculpture of a bull in his studio, Little Parc Owles, Cornwall (c.1958)
On his return to Cornwall in May 1953, he resumed work on the painting and quickly finished it, adding "the black pole and shaft" that runs down the centre of the picture and forms a ragged crucifix. "I do not pretend," he wrote, "that St Just is my best statement on the theme of Rome-Cornwall or Lazio-Penwith (a death theme), but it is the outcome of that axis."
Lanyon visited Italy for the last time in 1957. He arrived in Rome at the end of February and met up with friends, one of whom he had been conducting an affair with since 1955. They visited Lake Nemi and Lake Albano, Anticoli and Saracinesco. Over the next year or so he made pictures related to all these places. In 1961, a year after the affair had ended, he returned to the subject of Saracinesco, and started work on the last and perhaps greatest of his Italian pictures. He wrote of it: "A celebration of a high place and beyond where not only fireworks but moon rockets search for things beyond the primitive proportions of an Italian hill town. The fiesta and the sacrifice are still a part of our behaviour."
By then Italy was more than the place where as a young man he had seen the possibility of a better world, or had later discovered "a new Cornwall", or even "the other side of the medal: Cornwall inside out", it was a fundamental part of his history.
One-Man Exhibitions • 1949 Lefevre Gallery, London 'Paintings by Leila Caetani and Peter Lanyon', • 1951 Downing's Bookshop, St Ives • 1952 Gimpel Fils, London • 1954 Gimpel Fils, London • 1955 City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth • 1957 Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York • 1958 Gimpel Fils, London • 1959 Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York • 1960 Gimpel Fils, London • 1961 Sao Paulo Bienale, Brazil • 1962 Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York, Sail Loft Gallery, St Ives, Gimpel Fils, London • 1963 Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio, Texas Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York Arts Council Gallery, Cambridge 'Three Contemporary Painters' (with Henry Mundy and Ceri Richards) and touring: King's Lynn, Glasgow Midland Group Gallery, Nottingham • 1964 Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York Gimpel and Hanover Galerie, Zurich • 1968 Arts Council, Tate Gallery, London 'Peter Lanyon' and touring: City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool • 1969 Bear Lane Gallery, Oxford • 1970 Sheviock Gallery, Torpoint • 1970-71 Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol and Park Square Gallery, Leeds • 1971 Basil Jacobs Fine Art, London Exeter University • 1975 Gimpel Fils, London New Art Centre, London • 1978 Arts Council, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester 'Peter Lanyon: Paintings, drawings and constructions 1937-1964' and touring: Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow Kettles Yard, Cambridge Penwith Society of Arts, St Ives Royal West of England Academy of Arts, Bristol • 1981 City Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent 'Peter Lanyon: Drawings and Graphic Work' and touring: Museum of Modern Art, Oxford City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth • 1983 New Art Centre, London Newlyn Art Galley, Cornwall Gimpel Fils, London 'Peter Lanyon: Works 1946-1964' • 1984 Posterngate Gallery, Hull 'Peter Lanyon: Drawings and Gouaches 1937-1964' • 1984-85 British Council exhibition touring Ireland, Portugal and Spain 'Cornwall: Drawings by Peter Lanyon and Photographs by Andrew Lanyon' • 1987 Gimpel Fils, London 'Peter Lanyon: Selected Works 1952-64' 1991 Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London 'Peter Lanyon: Landscapes 1946-1964' Gillian Jason Gallery, London 'Peter Lanyon: Works on Paper' Works in Public Collections • Tate Gallery, London • Victoria and Albert Museum Catalogue, London • The Tate St. Ives; • British Arts Council • British Government Art Collection • Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; • City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery • Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. • Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford • Courtauld Institute of Art, London • Manchester City Art Gallery, • Southampton City Art Gallery, England • Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast • Cecil Higgins Museum • Bedford City Museum and Art Gallery • Plymouth Contemporary Art Society, • London Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston upon Hull • Friends of Bristol Art Gallery • Dyer Bequest Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea • Norfolk Contemporary Art Society • Peter Stuyvesant Foundation London • Pier Gallery, Orkney • Portsmouth Education Committee Russell-Cotes Art Gallery, Bournemouth Works in Museums and Public Art Galleries Worldwide • University of Manchester USA • Albright-Knox Art Gallery, • Buffalo Carnegie Institute, • Pittsburgh Cleveland Museum of Art • Princeton University, Art Museum • Smith College Museum of Art, • Massachusetts Yale University Art Gallery • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. • Canton Museum of Art, Ohio • MacKenzie Art Gallery, Saskatchewan • Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota • Australia Art Gallery of South Australia, • Adelaide Art Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne • Canada National Gallery of Canada, • Ottawa Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto • Czech Republic Narodni Gallery, Prague • Portugal Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon
Literature Andrew Causey, Peter Lanyon, Aidan Ellis Publishing, Henley-on-Thames, 1971, p.43, cat. no.10, illustrated pl.5; Andrew Lanyon, Portreath: The Paintings of Peter Lanyon, Andrew Lanyon, Newlyn 1993, illustrated p.22; Margaret Garlake, Peter Lanyon, Tate, London, 1998, cat. no.20, illustrated p.25; Chris Stephens, Peter Lanyon: At the Edge of Landscape, 21 Publishing, London 2000, p.52, pl.26; Andrew Causey, Peter Lanyon: Modernism and the Land, Reaktion Books, London 2006, p.47, pl.22. Literature: Chris Stephens, Peter Lanyon, At the Edge of Landscape, 21 Publishing, London, 2000, p.115.
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