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

The Intruding Bull

Details
Graham Sutherland, O.M. (1903-1980)
The Intruding Bull
signed and dated 'Sutherland 1944' (lower left) and inscribed 'The Intruding/Bull' (on a label attached to the reverse)
oil on panel
30 x 25½ in. (76.2 x 64.8 cm.)
Provenance
Purchased by Sir Colin Anderson at the 1945 exhibition.
His sale; Christie's, London, 18 November 2005, lot 27.
Private collection.
Literature
Horizon, XII, no. 67, July 1945, p. 25, illustrated.
D. Cooper, The Work of Graham Sutherland, London, 1961, p. 76, no. 86a, illustrated.
R. Berthoud, Graham Sutherland A Biography, London, 1982, p. 119.
Exhibited
London, Lefevre Gallery, Recent paintings by Francis Bacon, Frances Hodgkins, Henry Moore, Matthew Smith, Graham Sutherland, April 1945, no. 37.
London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Festival of Britain, New Burlington Galleries, British Painting 1925-50 First Anthology, March 1951, no. 100: this exhibition travelled to Manchester, City Art Gallery.
London, Tate Gallery, Private Views: Works from the collections of twenty Friends of the Tate Gallery, April - May 1963, no. 30.
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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William Porter

Lot Essay

Painted in 1944, The Intruding Bull marks an interesting juncture in Graham Sutherland’s oeuvre. It combines his unique reaction to the Pembrokeshire landscape of South Wales from a decade earlier with his contemporary experiences as an official war artist, travelling throughout the United Kingdom, recording the bomb damaged buildings of Swansea and London, the tin mines of Cornwall and the steel works of Cardiff.

As income from teaching and exhibition sales dried up with the advent of war, Sutherland was relieved to be employed by the War Artists Advisory Committee as an official war artist. Driven by Sir Kenneth Clark, Director of the National Gallery and close friend of Sutherland, the Committee’s objective was to employ the leading British artists of the day to record the war at home and abroad to raise morale and promote Britain’s image overseas. Clark also privately hoped that it would help save the lives of many of Britain’s finest 20th Century artists by keeping them from physically fighting in the war.

Sutherland initially found it difficult to reconcile his pre-war output with his new assignments, admitting that 'There was I who, up to then, had been concerned with the more hidden aspects of nature ... But now suddenly I was a paid official – a sort of reporter and, naturally, not only did I feel that I had to give value for money, but to contrive somehow to reflect in an immediate way the subjects set me. It was not until the advent of the air-raids that I could see any way open to combine the aims of my work before the outbreak of war with the task then in front of me' (G. Sutherland, Correspondences, Parma, 1979, p. 64).

As Sutherland struggled to represent the subjects before him, he drew on his previous experiences to reconcile this conflict. In 1938 Picasso’s Guernica was exhibited at the New Burlington Galleries in London. Brought to England to promote the Republican cause in Spain, it depicts the atrocities surrounding the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica. Painted in the previous year, it was already being heralded as one of the key works of the century, expressing the horrors of conflict. Sutherland himself stated that, 'the conception of the idea of stress, both physical and mental, and how forms can be modified by emotion had been, even before the war, much in my mind. It was crystallised and strengthened by my understanding of Picasso’s studies for Guernica' (ibid., p. 65).

Indeed in the present work, there appears a close correlation with Guernica. The bull in Sutherland’s painting, raw and tortured, invades the canvas, its horns reflected in the thorny landscape. In a letter to Colin Anderson, the previous owner of this painting, in which he describes the Welsh landscape that first inspired him, Sutherland writes that the 'Cattle crouch among the dark gorse. The mind wanders from contemplation of the living cattle to their ghosts. It is no uncommon sight to see a horse's skull or horns of cattle lying bleached on the sand. Neither do we feel that the black-green ribs of half-buried wrecks and the phantom tree roots, bleached and washed by the waves, exist to emphasise the extraordinary completeness of the scene' (op. cit., p. 52).

Just as Picasso famously stated that 'I make the paintings for the painting. I paint the objects for what they are', Sutherland's work is also fundamentally rooted in reality and the world around him. He transforms these intimate observations of his surrounding environment through emotion. The bull, faithfully observed, becomes a symbol of aggression and brutality, a motif of destruction, intruding the expansive landscape of Pembrokeshire. Sutherland's "hidden aspects of nature" are violated by his experiences during the war. Executed in 1944, The Intruding Bull was one of the first major works that Sutherland painted outside his duties as a war artist. Having returned to South Wales with his wife, Kathleen, in August of the same year, it was inevitable that the emotions that he carried with him would be instilled in his subsequent paintings. Through his relationship with nature, he created metaphors for the contemporary world around him as he looked to distil, and then express, his emotions towards the world that he now found himself in.

It is unsurprising then, that after the war had ended, he started to look further afield, particularly to France and Italy, for new references to paraphrase the dramatically changing world that was post-war Europe. In fact, it was not until 1967, that Sutherland returned to Pembrokeshire, and the places that inspired many of his most important works, including The Intruding Bull, certainly one of his most enigmatic depictions of War, or, in the artist's own words, 'emotional paraphrases of reality' (op. cit., p. 15).


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