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Details
Edward Burra (1905-1976)
Landscape, Dartmoor
with stamped signature (lower right)
pencil and watercolour
29¾ x 52½ in. (75.6 x 133.3 cm.)
Executed in 1974.
Provenance
with Lefevre Gallery, London.
Literature
A. Causey, Edward Burra Complete Catalogue, Oxford, 1985, no. 395, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

This is one of several paintings inspired by a visit to Tavistock and Dartmoor with his sister Anne in September 1973. The holidays he took with her were very important to him. By the seventies, he was in poor health, and found it very difficult to walk, but landscape had become his passion. Anne made it possible for him to experience new places: she would arrange a trip, and book a few nights in hotels. All Burra had to do was to get into her car and look out of the window. Billy Chappell, who sometimes went with them, remembered, 'He would say, "Let's stop here", suddenly to Anne, and he'd look and look and look and not say anything'.

At this stage of his life, he particularly liked bare, upland hills, the antithesis of the crowded urban scenes which had excited him as a young man. He never made plein-air sketches or took photographs, but sometimes took notes, presumably in his hotel room in the evening, the roughest of drawings, made in children's sketch-pads using purple felt-tip or blue biro. Otherwise, he relied entirely on his phenomenal memory. After a day in the car, he was exhausted because his mind was full of what he had seen; the process of digestion was already under way, and parts of his mind were already starting to occupy themselves with technical issues of interpretation. Weeks or months later, this mass of very detailed impressions was distilled into another enormous watercolour. In this painting, it seems as if it is the way the raincloud has taken the colour out of the landscape in its shadow which particularly interested him. Burra's technique was continuously evolving, but he also occasionally quoted from other artists. The simplification of the stand of trees in the middle distance is reminiscent of Paul Nash's treatment of trees, for example in Wood on the Downs (1930, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums). A number of Burra's paintings refer in some way to Nash's work, a combination of homage, private humour, and a deliberate evocation of a person he felt strongly about.

J.S.
;

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