Graham Sutherland 1903 - 1980
Rock form against woods, 1973
Signed with initials and dated ‘G.S. 1973’ upper right
Oil on canvas
39 3/8 x 31 7/8 in, 100 x 81 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 contortions.
During the 1970s Sutherland created a series of rock form paintings, a number of which were shown in an exhibition at Galleria Bergamini, Milan in 1973, including the ‘Rock form against woods’. Although working for many Italian patrons during this period, Sutherland’s work still refers to the romanticism of the Pembrokeshire landscape. This final period in Sutherland’s art is focused on the growing human condition and its relation to nature.
In ‘Rock form against woods’ Sutherland uses numerous shapes to create one interlocking oval, a form that reveals his enduring fascination with order in variety. The free brushwork and dynamic rhythm is typical of paintings from the last decade of Sutherland’s career, with the patchwork of entrancing greens working to confuse the pictorial plane. This daring and complex composition is characteristic of Sutherland’s surrealist hybrid forms.
By the 1970s 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. 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.
Galleria Bergamini, Milan
Marcello Tacchino, Italy
Private Collection, Milan (purchased early 1980s)
Milan, Galleria Bergamini, Graham Sutherland: Opere Recenti, 1973, illus.
Francesco Arcangeli, Graham
Sutherland, Fratelli Fabbri, Milan, 1973, pp. 40 and 222, illus.