Peter Lanyon (1918-1964)
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Peter Lanyon (1918-1964)

Porthmeor Mural

Details
Peter Lanyon (1918-1964)
Porthmeor Mural
signed and dated 'Lanyon 62' (centre right)
oil on canvas
42 x 380 in. (107 x 965 cm.)
Painted in 1962-63.
Provenance
Commissioned by Stanley Seeger.
His sale; Sotheby's, London, 14 June 2001, lot 104.
with Offer Waterman, London, where purchased by the present owner in October 2013.
Literature
P. Lanyon, 'Peter Lanyon Talking, Recorded by W.J. Weatherby', The Guardian, 17 May 1962.
'Art in the West: Peter Lanyon Exhibition - New Mural for USA', The Cornishman, 10 January 1963.
A. Lanyon, Peter Lanyon 1918-1964, Penzance, 1990, p. 302, illustrated, as 'Stanley J. Seeger Mural'.
P. Davies, St. Ives Revisited: Innovators and Followers, Abertillery, 1994, p. 118.
M. Garlake, Peter Lanyon, London, 1998, pp. 58-60, no. 52, illustrated.
C. Stephens, Peter Lanyon: At the Edge of the Landscape, London, 2000, p. 162.
A. Causey, Peter Lanyon: Modernism and the Land, London, 2006, p. 196.
Exhibition catalogue, Porthmeor, A Peter Lanyon Mural Rediscovered, Bath, Victoria Art Gallery, 2008, pp. 36-37, illustrated.
T. Treves, Peter Lanyon: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings and Three-Dimensional Works, London, 2018, p. 565, no. 529, illustrated.
Exhibited
Manchester, Arts Council of Great Britain, Whitworth Art Gallery, Peter Lanyon: Paintings, Drawings and Constructions, 1937-64, January - March 1978, no. 77.
Bath, Victoria Art Gallery, Porthmeor, A Peter Lanyon Mural Rediscovered, October 2008 - January 2009, exhibition not numbered.
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.
This lot has been imported from outside the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Customs Duty (as applicable) will be added to the hammer price and Import VAT at 20% will be charged on the Duty inclusive hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer''s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice. Please see Conditions of Sale.

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William Porter
William Porter

Lot Essay


Stanley J. Seeger, an avid collector of Peter Lanyon’s work since 1957, commissioned Porthmeor in 1962 following an exhibition of his work at the Catherine Viviano Gallery in New York. He was looking for a monumental work to hang in the music room of his house Bois d’Arc and following the advice of Viviano, employed Lanyon to fill this prodigious space.

On visiting the house in February 1962 Lanyon returned home and completed three full size ink and gouache sketches titled Porthleven, Bois dArc and Delaware. These were sent to Seeger in the U.S and he chose Porthleven to be worked up into the final painting. In order to complete this monumental work Lanyon had to find a larger studio and so moved to 3 Porthmeor Studios for this commission.

When the finished painting arrived with Seeger in November 1962 he unrolled the canvas to find a work quite different to the initial sketch that had so appealed to him. Lanyon hurriedly returned to Bois d’Arc and over a two week period managed to rectify any concerns that Seeger had, subsequently paying two further visits when he took a temporary teaching post the following year in San Antonio, Texas. It is unsure how radically Lanyon altered the painting once it was in America, however, it remained hanging in the house for the next 38 years so any misgivings that Seeger had were surely pacified.

What is unexplained, however, is why the painting’s title was changed to Porthmeor. Lanyon was passionate about the surrounding landscape of his native Penwith. It would have certainly appealed to him to have “a little bit of Cornwall” hanging in the American residence of one of the most important art collectors of the 20th century, however, for him, each painting was specific to a time and place. Lanyon had created the work Porthleven for Seeger, however, the subsequent alterations made this work a very different painting. How could he recreate that visceral moment thousands of miles from home. Surely he turned to somewhere he knew best; his birthplace and the current location of his studio where he experienced the beach, waves, rocks and sky of Porthmeor. He had explored every inch of this landscape and so was able to experience it through sheer intuition. Porthmeor is not only one of the most important commissions that Lanyon completed but also one of his most personal paintings of the landscape he so loved. David Lewis, a great friend of Lanyon, talks of this intense passion as he remembers how, experiencing the world around him was indistinguishable from how he painted, making his canvases as powerful and fresh today as the moment they were painted.

'Peter Lanyon lived in Penwith, that ultimate thrust of south-east England into the rage of Atlantic tempests. This is a landscape of wind-scoured moors and granite outcroppings that resemble the bones of a land laid bare. It is a peninsula of wind-swept uplands edged by incisions of sheer jagged cliffs that drop vertically into the restless surges of the sea. It is a land of granite farm houses huddled like lonely secrets into the shoulders of the land; of cold gale-driven rainstorms that cut like steel razors; and of harbours with granite breakwaters around which cluster close-knit seaport towns with granite cottages and narrow lanes and the high-pitched shrieks of seagulls.

Peter was a landscape painter. He was, in my view, the greatest landscape painter of his generation - not just in Britain, but in Europe. But he did not paint pictures of the landscape. His paintings were the landscape in action. It was as if his brushes, laden with liquid pigments, were the collisions of seas, winds and clouds, and the surfaces on which he painted were the granite core of the land. It was as if every painting and every drawing became a new and intense drama, a rage of form and texture and colour in motion.
No wonder Peter’s favourite artist of all was Alfred Wallis, the Cornish mariner who in lonely old age used pieces of discarded cardboard on which to paint dramas of fragile ships on violent seas, and the perils faced by seamen whose survivals were fuelled by the ultimate loneliness of courage.

I knew Peter well in the nineteen forties and fifties. He wore a beret like a commando, and he wore his trouser-legs tucked into woollen stockings and tall leather boots as if he was ready to ride an untamed stallion. We would drive in a jeep at break-neck speed along narrow winding roads that undulated around and over turbulent hills – roads lined with hedges made of granite boulders - and we would roar through the narrow lanes of granite villages, and out again over hills revealing sudden vistas of ocean and cloud. Or we would clamber perilously down steep cliffs and stand on rocks around which the sea would surge, and gale winds would sweep white salt spray into our faces and eyes, while the gulls would wheel and shriek overhead.

It was of no surprise that Peter would become a glider pilot, and that he would soar alone above Penwith, riding wind currents and through surging clouds; and perhaps no surprise that he would lose control and plunge tragically to his death. It was the inevitable and passionate way that he lived. But he has left us with a legacy of relentlessly fierce clash-filled visual poems, in all likelihood the most powerful, direct and dramatic landscape poetry of our century.’

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