Graham Sutherland, O.M. (1903-1980)
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Graham Sutherland, O.M. (1903-1980)

The Fountain

Graham Sutherland, O.M. (1903-1980)
The Fountain
signed and dated 'Sutherland./1963.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
57 x 47¼ in. (144.8 x 120 cm.)
with Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York, 1963.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 3 March 1989, lot 444.
with Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 6 November, 1998, lot 125.
with Crane Kalman Gallery, London, where purchased by the present owner, March 2007.
Exhibition catalogue, Recent Paintings by Graham Sutherland, New York, Paul Rosenberg, 1964, p. 27, no. 2, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Graham Sutherland, Torino, Galleria Civica D'arte Moderna, 1965, p. 293, no. 131, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Graham Sutherland, Munich, Haus der Kunst, 1967, no. 78, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Graham Sutherland O.M. - A Retrospective, London, Crane Kalman Gallery, 1999, no. 31, illustrated.

New York, Paul Rosenberg, Recent Paintings by Graham Sutherland, May - June 1964, no. 2.
Torino, Galleria Civica D'arte Moderna, Graham Sutherland, October - November 1965, no. 131.
Basel, Kunsthalle, Graham Sutherland, February - March 1966, no. 118.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Graham Sutherland, March - May 1967, no. 78: this exhibition travelled to The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, June - July 1967; Berlin, Haus der Kunst, August - September 1967; and Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, October - November 1967.
London, Crane Kalman Gallery, Graham Sutherland O.M. - A Retrospective, April - June 1999, no. 31.
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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

In 1955 Graham Sutherland bought Villa Tempe a Païa in Menton, France, a modernist home designed and built by the Irish architect Eileen Gray in 1934. The surrounding landscape of which would become particularly influential on Sutherland’s work in the late 1950s and 1960s.

‘In 1963 Sutherland made a number of sketches of the village fountain at Castellar . . . developing these into a series of paintings with the central theme of water running over stonework. Between 1963 and 1966 he made altogether about twelve oil paintings of fountains or cisterns, some based on formal fountains such as the one at Castellar and some on small waterfalls in the hills or water gushing out of stone into a water tank, and sometimes with erotic and anatomical overtones’ (R. Alley, exhibition catalogue, Graham Sutherland, London, Tate Gallery, 1982, p. 151).

Creating colourful forms within a dark mass, water pours from the centre of The Fountain and streams down the abstracted face of the font before pooling in an azure blue strip across the lower canvas. In works of the same theme, such as Blue Fountain - Autumn, 1965, we observe a more vibrant approach to colour and a more two dimensional approach to the composition, where as in the present Sutherland explores a more brooding palette. The fountain is presented in an almost wholly black canvas, giving each form an eerie sense that it is being conjured out of darkness. Indeed, Francis Bacon’s work of the early 1950s similarly looked to conjure flesh imbued with vibrant hues from the shadows with the same gestural brushwork that Sutherland uses here. Both artists also use structural motifs in their works to anchor their forms and provide an architectural stage-like setting, deployed here in the vivid blue window-like silhouette in the upper left corner. The interplay of vibrant colours, abstracted forms and distorted figures in both Bacon’s and Sutherland’s work extended well in to the later part of the 20th Century.

Sutherland’s oeuvre dances between the artificial and the natural, from his series of twisted girders in bomb-damaged buildings that mimic the ribs of decaying animals, to thorns and tree roots that rise from the earth as fearsome beasts. The Fountain is no different, it is both solid masonry, an axis of unmovable stone and a visceral collection of organic forms emphasised by the climber creeping through the aperture in the upper left and the creature quenching its thirst in the lower left of the composition.

Despite the unruly cascade of vivid colours in the centre of the canvas, the work itself is grounded within a firm composition. Similarly to Sutherland’s Crucifixion, a strong vertical band of detail is anchored by two horizontal blocks of colour along the bottom of the canvas and even the blankest sections are latticed with grid-like tracery. Sutherland was preoccupied with compositional arrangement: he would begin numerous preparatory drawings with a grid that is still visible under a large number of his works in gouache.
‘I have always felt the need for an element of equilibrium. In my earlier groping way I found this difficult: even impossible. As I have become older, I have tried to control the unbalance – to control and place the areas which were to me the most fascinating – in a more logical way and to allow the movements of the centres of vitality to proliferate and repeat themselves as in a fugue…but contained and controlled’ (Sutherland, quoted in ibid., p.159).

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