1903 - 1980
Wood Interior, 1960-61
Signed and dated lower left 'GS. VIII. 60'; signed, titled and dated verso 'Sutherland/ WOOD INTERIOR/ 1961'
Oil on canvas
44 1/8 x 33 7/8 in, 112 x 86 cm
Graham Sutherland was a leader of the Neo-Romantic generation of painters that rose to prominence in Britain during the 1930s and 1940s. This group of artists, including Paul Nash, John...
Graham Sutherland was a leader of the Neo-Romantic generation of painters that rose to prominence in Britain during the 1930s and 1940s. This group of artists, including Paul Nash, John Craxton, Ivon Hitchens and Keith Vaughan, shared a deeply poetic vision of nature, inspired by the romantic spirit of British art. For Sutherland, his initial training as an engineer triggered a revulsion towards the machine-age, which he poured into early paintings of rural Pembrokeshire. As an official war artist during the Second World War, Sutherland was also deeply affected by his studies of the armament factories and skeletal remains of burnt-out buildings on the Home Front. These memories transformed Sutherland’s natural subjects in the aftermath of the war into an array of grotesque yet intriguing forms.
Although during the 1960s his work was dominated by portraits, Sutherland never stopped depicting natural subjects. In this painting, Wood Interior of 1960-61, gone are the earlier subdued tones of his Pembrokeshire works in favour of a vivid and more arbitrary use of colour. This is often credited to the increasing amount of time he spent in the South of France from 1947, eventually buying a house in Menton, near Nice, in 1955. In a patchwork of jarring yet entrancing greens, Sutherland uses colour for effect rather than depth. While the pinks and the greens fight against each other, the distorted forms flatten and confuse the pictorial plane. This daring and complex composition highlights Sutherland’s skill at creating surrealist hybrid forms.
By the beginning of the 1960s Sutherland had established an international reputation, having exhibited at the Festival of Britain (1951), Venice Biennale (1952) and Tate, London (1953), as well as painting the now infamous portrait of Winston Churchill in 1954 that was subsequently destroyed. Between 1955 and 1961 Sutherland’s artistic output was minimal as he was completing a momentous tapestry commission for Coventry Cathedral (1962), making Wood Interior a rare piece from this period. Having had major museum exhibitions in Paris, Amsterdam, New York and Zurich, retrospectives of Sutherland’s work have been held at ICA (1951), National Portrait Gallery (1966) and Dulwich Picture Gallery (2005) in London. In the same year as the present painting Sutherland was awarded the Order of Merit, symbolising his crucial role in this post-war era of British art.
Marlborough Fine Art, London
Galleria d’Arte Galatea, Turin
Galleria d’Arte La Nuovo Pesa, Rome
Galleria Sangallo, Florence
London, Marlborough Gallery, Recent Paintings by Graham Sutherland, June – July 1962, no. 16