In 1949 Patrick Heron painted the art critic Herbert Read (National Portrait Gallery, London), at the recommendation of T.S. Elliot who had previously sat for him. The portrait was a resounding success and when exhibited at the Redfern Gallery in 1950, David Sylvester commented in his review 'Heron was becoming less dependent upon the Master...If [some of the paintings] are still dominated by Braque's idiom, they have a peculiarly astringent intensity that is quite foreign to Braque ... Now it seems that we may know him in the future as an artist with a personality of his own.' (M. Gooding, Patrick Heron, London, 2008, pp. 66-76).
Nude in Wicker Chair, painted in 1951, shows this newly found confidence, simultaneously exploring the world of light and object, and the workings of his own eye and intellect. In order to free himself of the constraints of unfamiliar compositions to pursue these formal explorations Heron would paint the familiar sitters of his wife and children. Indeed the present work depicts his wife Delia. Although not titled, Susanna Heron "Knew straight away that it was my mother. I could tell from her collar bone and her hip" and Heron himself commented "In my own work I have an irrepressible desire to comment upon that visual reality which my eyes actually encounter every day. 'Reality' may be, as Gabo says, a matter of electrons, or whatever. Nevertheless, our human eyes have not changed in their natural capacity: we still do not see the electrons: we still see a rush-bottomed chair; a coffee-pot, a girl cut in half by a shaft of sunlight." (P. Heron, Art is Autonomous, Painter as Critic, p. 98).