29th Oct, 2019 12:00 EST

Modern & Contemporary Art

 
  Lot 47
 
Lot 47 - Graham Sutherland (British, 1903-1980)

47

Graham Sutherland (British, 1903-1980)
Grasses Against Dark Sky

Signed and dated 1963 bottom right, titled and dated again verso, oil on canvas.
28 3/4 x 23 3/4 in. (73 x 60.3cm)

Provenance: Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York, New York.
Private Collection (acquired directly from the above circa 1963).
By family descent.
Private Collection.

Estimated at $30,000 - $50,000


 

Signed and dated 1963 bottom right, titled and dated again verso, oil on canvas.
28 3/4 x 23 3/4 in. (73 x 60.3cm)

Provenance: Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York, New York.
Private Collection (acquired directly from the above circa 1963).
By family descent.
Private Collection.

British artist Graham Sutherland once said: "The moment of seeing is often fleeting and I will see something which fascinates me, but if I have not had time to make a note at the moment of recognition, it may be useless to me to return… the flash of recognition has passed… It is the element of the accident and the accidental encounter which is important."(1) This "flash of recognition" encapsulates Sutherland's work succinctly, whether regarding his landscapes, portraits or religious paintings, he managed to convey a way of being that delves deep into the character of the person or place.

During Sutherland's early years he was drawn to printmaking. Later, employed as an artist during the Second World War, he recorded bomb damage in Wales in a series of desolate, unpopulated paintings entitled Devastation. After the war, he turned to a Surrealist style of landscape painting, while also engaging religious subjects, culminating in a large-scale tapestry project for the new Coventry Cathedral in 1962. A friendship with W. Somerset Maugham prompted experimentation with portrait painting in 1949, which led to a lifelong occupation as unofficial portrait painter to English aristocrats and business people. (His now infamous portrait of Winston Churchill was despised by the leader and later destroyed.)

Grasses Against Dark Sky differs in form from most of Sutherland's more Surrealist landscape imagery, and offers a unique "portrait" of his surroundings in Menton, in the south of France where he lived for a time beginning in 1955. During this period, Sutherland focused on his immediate environment, his own garden, or the paths he frequented, painting often dramatic scenes of seemingly mysterious locales and their animal inhabitants. The swirling black sky in this important example contrasts with the bright green, vibrant grasses that seem to sway and bend in an eerie light. As is evident here, the magic of Sutherland's work lies in his ability to "pin down the essence" of his subject and offer his impression for the viewer to experience first-hand.(2)


1: The Artist as quoted in: Ronald Alley, Graham Sutherland, exh. cat., London: The Tate Gallery, 1982, p. 12.
2. Ibid, p. 15.


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