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Graham Sutherland, O.M. (1903-1980)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY OF A LONDON COLLECTOR
Graham Sutherland, O.M. (1903-1980)

Still Life with Banana Leaf

Graham Sutherland, O.M. (1903-1980)
Still Life with Banana Leaf
signed with initials and indistinctly dated 'G.S. 1947' (lower right)
oil on board
10½ x 21½ in. (26.5 x 53.5 cm.)
with Hanover Gallery, London.
Franland Dark, London.
with Marlborough Fine Art, London, circa the 1960s.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, 10 June 2014, lot 17.
R. Melville (intro.), Graham Sutherland, London, 1950, n.p., no. 52, illustrated.
D. Cooper, The Work of Graham Sutherland, London, 1961, p. 78, no. 99a, illustrated.
F. Arcangeli, Graham Sutherland, Milan, 1973, p. 35, no. 66, illustrated.
J. Hayes, The Art of Graham Sutherland, Oxford, 1980, p. 113, no. 80, illustrated
London, Hanover Gallery, Paintings by Graham Sutherland, June - July 1948, no. 15.
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.

Lot Essay

Painted in 1947, Still Life with Banana Leaf coincides with Sutherlands first visit to the South of France. In the summer of that year he and his wife Kathleen travelled from England, first to Paris and then onto Aix-en-Provence and the surrounding region, where they socialised with artist’s such as Francis Bacon and Eardley Knollys of the Bloomsbury School. This trip was a seminal moment in the artist’s career and Sutherland returned to work there for several months in the winter every year.

The direct influence of the French Riviera is notable in several aspects of Still Life with Banana Leaf, perhaps most obviously with the prop itself. The exoticism of the banana leaf, with its vibrant colour, large size, rubbery texture and it’s impact on a British audience in the immediate post-war period must not be under-estimated. The present work is one of a series of still-lifes from this time, demonstrating Sutherland’s preoccupation with the new subject matter that the Mediterranean region offered him. Palms, gourds, cicadas, and vines were all frequent motifs in Sutherland’s works from 1947 and 1948. However, the spiky anthropomorphic shapes of both the palms and banana leaf that appears in these works do recall the organic themes of the gnarled hedgerows and thorn trees that had been prevalent in Sutherland’s work prior to Second World War. In Still Life with Banana Leaf Sutherland is building upon his earlier organic influences with the exoticism of the French Riviera.

In 1951 Sutherland wrote ‘Critics have said that my colour became light (and acid!) after I started working in France! It is a prime example of the laziness of some of them; if they had bothered to enquire I could have shown them pictures painted in 1944 which were very bright and light in colour’ (G. Sutherland, ‘ Thoughts on Painting’, The Listener, 1951, pp. 376-378). Nevertheless, it is difficult to dismiss that the almost luminous tones of the orange table and turquoise and green leaves were a direct reaction to the light, warmth and colours of the South of France.

In the years after the Second World War, Sutherland was keen to disassociate his work from being seen as that of a provincial Neo-Romantic and aspired to gain a greater international reputation. In a letter to New Statesman he writes ‘I do not deny that I received adolescent stimulus from Palmer and Blake: but that does not mean I turn my back on Paris’ (Sutherland, quoted in M. Hammer, Graham Sutherland: Landscapes, War Scenes, Portraits 1924-1950, London, 2005, p. 161). Still Life with Banana Leaf and other works of this period demonstrates a close affinity with French modernism. The spiky folds and segments of the leaves gives the work a partially shattered or fragmented appearance, this combined with the use of multiple view-point perspective and plains of bright flat colour are all aspects that are reminiscent of modernist painting from Paris, namely Picasso’s Cubism and Matisse’s Fauvism. During his pivotal trips to Paris in 1947, Sutherland was introduced to both of these artists, first Matisse at his home in Vence and then Picasso at Villauris, which was the beginning of a long relationship between the two artists.

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