Graham and Kathleen Sutherland first visited Pembrokeshire in the summer of 1934, following the recommendation of Robert Wellington, the owner of the Zwemmer Gallery in London. The landscape and “magical and transforming” light made an immediate impact on Sutherland. “It was in this country that I began to learn painting” (G. Sutherland, 'Welsh Sketchbook', Horizon, no. 28, April 1942).
The pink rocks and half-buried wrecks in the estuary at Sandy Haven, the gnarled roots and shale rock of Eastern Cleddau and craggy configurations of the Preseli Hills plunging into the sea at Whitesand Bay all inspired Sutherland, giving his work a dramatic intensity not seen in British art at this time. Sutherland was to return every year to Pembrokeshire until 1946 when his attentions and interests turned to the South of France.
It was not until August 1967 that he returned to South Wales while making a documentary with the Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Ruggerini. This visit once again rekindled his love for the powerful vocabulary within the landscape and the intensity of light that he first discovered over 30 years before. Indeed from 1968 until his death in 1980 Sutherland would visit Pembrokeshire twice a year, for a month in the Summer and up to two weeks around Christmas.
Conglomerate IV is the last of four paintings executed in the early 1970s. During a visit to the beach near Picton Castle he found a piece of conglomerate rock lying on the sand. He was fascinated by the intricacy of forms and variety of shapes within the stone and painted a number of watercolour studies of the rock before turning them into more monumental paintings. The light pink ground that the rock rests on was inspired by the sands of the estuary at Sandy Haven, some miles from Picton. This distillation of individual details into one conglomeration is the result of Sutherland’s working practices where he experiences the detail within the landscape first hand and then “in the studio one remembers: one’s encounters become redefined, paraphrased and changed into something new and different from that of the first encounter – yet the same” (Graham Sutherland quoted in Sutherland in Wales, London, 1976, p. 17).