Patrick Heron (1920-1999)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTION
Patrick Heron (1920-1999)

Big Grey - With Disc: June - September 1959

Patrick Heron (1920-1999)
Big Grey - With Disc: June - September 1959
signed and dated ‘1959/PATRICK/HERON’ (on the reverse), signed again and inscribed ‘PATRICK HERON BIG GREY-WITH DISC: JUNE - SEPT 1959’ (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
84 x 60 in. (213.5 x 152.5 cm.)
The artist’s family.
with Waddington Galleries, London, where purchased by Robert Devereux in 2004.
His sale; Sotheby’s; London, 3 November 2010, lot 31.
with Richard Green, London, where purchased by the present owner in May 2012.
Exhibition catalogue, Patrick Heron, Tate Gallery, London, 1998, pp. 86, 87, no. 34, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Patrick Heron Works from 1956 to 1969, London, Waddington Galleries, p. 20, no. 9, illustrated.
London, Tate Gallery, Patrick Heron, June - September 1998, no. 34.
London, Waddington Galleries, Patrick Heron Works from 1956 to 1969, February - March 2002, no. 9.
Special notice

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Anne Haasjes

Lot Essay

‘Colour is both the subject and the means; the form and the content; the image and the meaning, in my painting today. For this reason my paintings (particularly since 1957) have contained a diminishing number of shapes, or colour-forms; ragged squares, oblongs, soft-edged discs (lopsided, usually – because they lie better along the surface of the canvas if they are lopsided: pure circles and squares always seem to destroy that surface); or, a favourite thing with me, a lopsided disc inside an uneven square! (Sometimes a picture has only one form in a ground.’
(P. Heron, ‘A Note on my Painting’, 1963, in M. Gooding (ed.), Painter as Critic: Patrick Heron Selected Writings, London, 1998, p. 154).

Big Grey with Disc: June – September 1959, completed over the summer of 1959, has a monumental presence, the variously sized forms or ‘lozenges’ mesmerizingly floating against a grey background.

Big Grey with Disc: June – September 1959 and the other paintings of this period register a number of seminal artistic developments in Heron’s career that had taken place over the previous three years. The artist had moved with his family to Zennor, on the Cornish coast at the beginning of 1956. His move here caused his work to change, with ‘dramatic decisiveness, from a stylized figuration with clear links to the later work of Braque and Matisse to a radical abstraction’ (M. Gooding, Patrick Heron, London, 1998, p. 16). The colours of the sweeping landscape, the windswept moors, and swirling sea beyond, unequivocally stimulated Heron’s turn towards abstraction; he later wrote, ‘This is a landscape which has altered my life…the house in its setting is the source of all my painting’ (P. Heron, quoted in Gooding, ibid., p. 118). Another definitive event around this time was the first exhibition of Abstract Expressionism at the Tate in January 1956, which Heron reviewed for the journal Arts. The exhibition included work by Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and was the first time that post-war American artists had been shown in London.

Heron was ‘impressed but not overwhelmed’ (Gooding, ibid., p. 98) by these artists’ work, as he continued to develop his non-representational experimentations. The beginning of 1957 saw a great burst in creativity as Heron made his famous ‘stripe’ paintings, whose broad horizontal strokes of unmixed, bold colours, demonstrate Heron’s great skill as a colourist, and indicate his decisive move towards a wholly non-representational art.

These ‘stripe’ paintings were badly reviewed by critics, but from early 1958 Heron continued to loosen and vary the forms, further removing any figurative associations. He wrote in 1958, ‘My interest is in fact always in space in colour and space in colour is the subject of my painting today to the exclusion of everything else’ (P. Heron quoted in Gooding, ibid., p. 145). With a broadening colour palette, Heron began to deploy arranging floating forms across the canvas. These works, of which Big Grey with Disc: June – September 1959 is a perfect example, were ‘characterised by openly-organised intuitive placements of soft-edged squares, lozenges and rectangular apertures. For in these paintings… Heron moved beyond the rapid summary strokes and washes of the ‘stripe’ and ‘horizon’ paintings towards what he described as a ‘true spontaneity’…’ (Gooding, ibid., p. 144). In Big Grey with Disc: June – September 1959 Heron floated textured colour-forms over a canvas flooded with a single colour grey. The result is an absorbingly harmonious composition that exudes a sense of balance and tranquillity, fully realising Heron’s vision of making colour the single, uniting feature of his painting.

We are very grateful to Mel Gooding for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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