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Peter Lanyon (1918-1964)
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Peter Lanyon (1918-1964)


Peter Lanyon (1918-1964)
signed, inscribed and dated '"JUDY"/Peter Lanyon/CORSHAM 1954' (on the reverse), signed again and inscribed again 'LANYON/ATTIC STUDIO/ST IVES/CORNWALL/via Chippenham - Bristol - St Erth' (on a label attached to the reverse)
oil on board
27 x 16½ in. (68.6 x 41.9 cm.)
The artist, and by descent.
A. Causey, Peter Lanyon, Henley-on-Thames, 1971, p. 50, no. 60.
C. Stephens, Peter Lanyon At the edge of landscape, London, 2000, p. 125.
London, Gimpel Fils, Peter Lanyon, March 1954, no. 60.
Plymouth, City Art Gallery, Peter Lanyon, May 1955, no. 20: this exhibition toured to Nottingham, Midland Group Gallery.
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Lot Essay

'If 'nudes' were rare in Lanyon's production, sexual encounters became a major theme, as many of his experiences of place were shared with his mistress. Its distance from home ensured that for many artists Corsham represented an escape from domesticity and, like others, Lanyon enjoyed relationships with several of the students. These were not especially secret and an early partner, Judy Jackson, was featured in the painting Judy (1953)' (see Stephens, loc. cit.).

The present work can be compared to Europa, 1954 (private collection), which fellow artist Patrick Heron described as a 'nude-landscape'. He continued, in an essay (Arts, New York, 1956), 'Analogies between the female figure and landscape are the main 'content' of this and similar recent works by Lanyon. Limbs and body seem articulated in terms of the Cornish field-patterns. Possibly, to the spectator, the landscape seems to have got the better of the girl ... Lanyon works on one picture, often, for months, completely destroying a whole series of versions, one after another, by burying each beneath its successor. I have suggested that if these successive stages could be recorded on separate canvases we should gain a large number of excellent Lanyons which are, as a result of this destructive method, lost. His reply is that only by destructively attacking a picture he feels dissatisfied with can he 'uncover the real image' - and to this there is no answer!' (see Exhibition catalogue, Peter Lanyon air, land & sea, London, Camden Arts Centre, 1992, pp. 12-5).
Chris Stephens comments, 'There were, of course many precedents for an art that fused landscape and body, and, at that time, the sculpture of Henry Moore established such an ambiguity as a major artistic form. In the 1930s, Pavel Tchelichev had produced images of landscapes that metamorphose into recumbent female bodies, and similar works by Michael Ayrton displayed a still greater sexual charge. During the 1940s, Graham Sutherland's depictions of tree forms had resonated with a barely hidden erotic anthropomorphism, while conversely, John Piper's erotic drawings of the nude implied a continuity between the expansive body and the landscape within which it lay. There is, however, a fundamental difference in Lanyon's treatment of this familiar ambiguity. For these other artists, both land and body were objectified and contained by the gaze. In contrast, Lanyon's 'nudes' intepreted the body through touch, and claustrophobic merger of forms in Europa epitomizes this concentration on points of contact ... Just as his approach to landscape replaced its objectification by the gaze with his bodily experience of its spaces, so touch came to take a position alongside vision in his approach to the body' (op. cit., pp. 123-4).


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