PETER LANYON (1918-1964)
PETER LANYON (1918-1964)
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PETER LANYON (1918-1964)

Tree Top Nest

PETER LANYON (1918-1964)
Tree Top Nest
signed and dated 'Lanyon 56' (lower left)
oil on board
48 x 30 in. (122 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1956.
with Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York.
Margaret Viviano, by 1992.
Acquired from Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London in 2003.
A. Causey, Peter Lanyon: His Paintings, Henley-on-Thames, 1971, p. 53, no. 84.
T. Treves, Peter Lanyon: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings and Three Dimensional Works, London, 2018, pp. 332-3, no. 358, illustrated.
New York, Catherine Viviano Gallery, Peter Lanyon, January - February 1957, no. 11.
Chicago, Arts Club of Chicago, Young British Painters, October - December 1957, no. 60: this exhibition travelled to Buffalo, Albright Gallery, January - February 1958; and Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, May 1958.
New York, American Federation of Artists, A.F.A. Preview: Younger Europeans, October 1957 - October 1958, no. 4.
Minneapolis, Institute of Art, European Art Today: 35 Painters and Sculptors, September - October 1959, no. 64: this exhibition travelled to Los Angeles, County Museum, November - December 1959; San Francisco, City Museum of Art, January - February 1960; Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art, February - April 1960; Ottowa, National Gallery of Canada, April - May 1960; New York, French & Company Inc., June - August 1960; and Baltimore, Museum of Art, September - October 1960.
Lincoln, University of Nebraska, Nebraska Art Association 71st Annual Exhibition, 1961, no. 72, catalogue not traced.
San Antonio, Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, Peter Lanyon, March 1963, no. 2, catalogue not traced.
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.

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Lot Essay

In 1955 Lanyon’s creativity seemed to go into hibernation when he made only one large painting, Europa that year. This had happened once before, in 1950, when the drop of productivity was a sign of a major change being underway. The nature of that change was evident in 1951 when he completed Porthleven (Tate Gallery, London) and the first of his place paintings, of which the group known as the St Just Series was the supreme expression in the early 1950s. Something similar happened after 1955. In 1956 he made the first of his skyscapes – a major subject of the late 1950s and early 1960s - and began what he called the Susan Series, whose theme – love in its fullness – underlay most of Lanyon’s remaining work. It is this series, based on his relationship with Susan Hunt, that Tree Top Nest relates to.

Although Lanyon had painted a handful of portraits and still-lifes in his early adulthood, his primary interest was and would remain the landscape, especially that of West Cornwall, where he had been born and lived most of his life. In the 1930s, when he was a boy, he had painted it as it appeared, but while he was away from Cornwall during the war he had realised that it was far more to him than a view – it was home. That is to say, the places of West Cornwall contained immense personal significance for him. In short, they inhabited the memory of his senses and his mind. And because he knew them so well he came to feel that he and the landscape were one indivisible living entity.

Living was the key and movement was intrinsic. Many of the stabilising conventions of landscape painting dropped away in Lanyon’s paintings: horizons multiplied and slid onto the vertical, if they appeared at all; orderly pictorial space, that principle of the landscape genre, was made erratic, even incomprehensible; cross-section, plan, and elevation co-existed; above, below, from the side, close-up and far away overlapped. Nothing was in harmony and nothing was static.

By the time he started the Susan Series, Lanyon was committed to this way of thinking about and painting landscape. And it was natural for him, as he was pulled into the stronger currents of love, to project that experience onto landscape. In Tree Top Nest the sky and the sea perhaps run up the right edge; the central block of green may be the fields and moorland; and the grey possibly sky or rock. But the broad strokes of black and the roughly outlined grey/white shape in the upper right, partly engulfed by black might be the tree top and the nest, inhabited by those patches of grey and white, slightly secluded, as lovers often are.

Lulworth (Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo), Tamarisk, and Boscastle (Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence), all painted in 1956 are part of the Susan Series. Other works in the series include Long Sea Surf, 1957-57 (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC) and Saracinesco, 1961-62.

We are very grateful to Toby Treves for preparing this catalogue entry.

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