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    Sale 12223

    Modern British & Irish Art Evening Sale

    20 June 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 13

    Peter Lanyon (1918-1964)

    North East

    Price Realised  


    Peter Lanyon (1918-1964)
    North East
    signed and dated 'Lanyon 63' (lower right), signed again and dated again and inscribed 'NORTH EAST/Lanyon 63' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    72 x 48 in. (182.8 x 122 cm.)

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    From 1940 to 1945 Peter Lanyon served with the Royal Air Force in the Western Desert, Palestine and Italy where he gained some flight experience towards the end of the war. Long after his service had ended he began lessons at the Cornish Gliding Club in Perranporth, 1959, whereby gliding became a passion and a major influence in his painting.

    A Cornish native, Lanyon grew up in West Penwith. His childhood had been shaped by the air, sea and rocky landscape of West Cornwall, which he explored on foot and by motorbike as an adult. His experiences and memories bound with the landscape, Lanyon explored the totality of our experiences with nature through his painting. As explained by his contemporary Patrick Heron ‘landscape for him is something climbed over, trodden on, lain in: something you explore, not by examining it from a single, fixed and static viewpoint with your eyes alone, but by projecting your body across, over, up, into, even under it’ (‘Peter Lanyon’ by Patrick Heron in Exhibition catalogue, Peter Lanyon: Air, Land & Sea, The South Bank Centre, 1992, p. 11).

    The cerulean and sea blues, ochres and greens which permeate Lanyon’s canvasses and transport the viewer to the airy coastline of Cornwall are seen in Lanyon’s series of gliding paintings where the majesty of the landscape is experienced from a new soaring vantage point. As Lanyon said: 'The whole purpose of gliding was to get a more complete knowledge of the landscape, and the pictures now combine the elements of land, sea and sky - earth, air and water. I had always watched birds in flight exploring the landscape, moving more freely than man can, but in a glider I was similarly placed' (see Arts Council Exhibition Catalogue, 1968, p. 4).

    A harmonious and stimulating work from Lanyon’s series of glider paintings, North East captures the essence of a huge vista where we see land, air and coastline. A deep blue panel swells to the right of the painting while green, beige and white sections are intersected by delicate brushstrokes and a central three-armed brown form. Andrew Causey has likened the central brown fork to the ‘sextant in Lanyon’s glider’ and has suggested that the faint blue strokes appear like the wires in Naum Gabo’s curved constructions (A. Causey, Peter Lanyon, Henley, 1971, pp. 29-30). Lanyon celebrated Gabo’s theory of how to convey space and applied this to his work by removing the horizon as seen in traditional landscape painting. He also allied himself to the Constructivist ideal of making art to convey a sensory response to experience.

    North East also has a cartographical reading, as the brown pronged form has been compared to the runway of the Cornish Gliding Club, the very place where Lanyon learnt to glide in Perranporth which lies north east of Penwith (T. Treves and B. Wright (eds.), exhibition catalogue, Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyons Gliding Paintings, London, 2015, p. 140). The same curvature of the coastline runs alongside the air field and the distinctive shape of the runway runs towards the sea. We can see flecks of white running alongside the coastline which would suggest the break of the waves whilst the green panel captures the airfields below. The paint in the large white, curved area to the right of the painting has been thickly applied in comparison to the rest of the canvas where it is thinner and the texture of the canvas is more visible. This ridged white area is arguably a cumulus cloud through which we can see the landscape below. As an experienced glider Lanyon would have learnt to follow and read the shifting thermals which would appear in dark and light areas to lift and accelerate the glider. In North East Lanyon captures the essence of the swooping currents, surge of winds and flurries of changing currents as he invites us on his flight over the Cornish landscape. The red brush strokes perhaps suggest the journey of Lanyon’s own red glider which catches the wind at the end of the brown runway, his path tracked by the purple line, circling to find the current.

    Exhibited in the recent exhibition of Lanyon’s work at The Courtauld Institute, London, Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyons Gliding Paintings, North East is a particularly powerful example from a period of Lanyon’s paintings celebrated by academics and critics alike.

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


    with Gimpel Fils, London, where purchased by the present owner, 2004.


    A. Causey, Peter Lanyon, Oxford, 1971, no. 195, pl. 55.
    Exhibition catalogue, Peter Lanyon, London, Basil Jacobs, 1971, no. 10, illustrated on the cover.
    T. Treves and B. Wright, exhibition catalogue, Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon's Gliding Paintings, London, Courtauld Gallery, pp. 140-141, no. 18, illustrated.


    New York, Catherine Viviano, Peter Lanyon, May 1964, no. 2.
    Madrid, British Council, Museo Municipal, Pintura Británica Conteporánea, 1965, no. 120.
    London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Tate Gallery, Peter Lanyon, May - June 1968, no. 83: this exhibition travelled to Plymouth, City Museum and Art Gallery, July - August 1968; Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Laing Art Gallery; Birmingham, City Museum and Art Gallery, September 1968; Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, October 1968.
    London, Basil Jacobs, Peter Lanyon, November - December 1971, no. 10.
    London, Courtauld Gallery, Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon's Gliding Paintings, October 2015 - January 2016, no. 18.