Sir Matthew Smith (1879-1959)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Sir Matthew Smith (1879-1959)

Peonies and Lilies

Sir Matthew Smith (1879-1959)
Peonies and Lilies
oil on canvas
30 1/8 x 25 1/8 in. (76.5 x 63.7 cm.)
Painted in 1927.
with Arthur Tooth & Sons, London.
Purchased at the 1927 exhibition by G.P. Dudley Wallis, Manchester.
with Storran Gallery, London, by 1939, where acquired by Vivien Leigh, Lady Olivier (1913-1967), London, by 1958.
with Lefevre Gallery, London, where acquired by Max Aitken, 1st Lord Beaverbrook (1879-1964) in 1960.
The Beaverbrook Foundation sale; Sotheby's, London, 15 December 2010, lot 120.
Beaverbrook Art Gallery Quarterly, September 1986, vol.1, no. 35.
J. Gledhill, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings of Matthew Smith, Farnham, 2009, p. 130, no. 260, pl. 28.
London, Lefevre Galleries, Painting by Matthew Smith, December 1927, no. 14.
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Matthew Smith: Retrospective Exhibition, October - November 1929, no. 27.
Venice, XVII Esposizione Biennale Internationale d'Arts, 1932, no. 104.
London, British Council Fine Arts Committee, British Pavilion, Exhibition of Contemporary British Painting, 1939-1940, ex-catalogue.
London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Three Masters of Modern Painting: Sir Matthew Smith, Victor Pasmore, Francis Bacon, 1958, no. 10.
London, Royal Academy, A Memorial Exhibition of Works by Sir Matthew Smith C.B.E. 1879-1959, October - December 1960, no. 197.
Fredericton, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, The First 45 Years - British Collection, January - May 2004, catalogue not traced.
Fredericton, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Art in Dispute, July 2005 - March 2006, catalogue not traced.
Fredericton, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Governor's Choice (Tom McDonald), Still Life in Dispute, Summer 2006, catalogue not traced.
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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Lot Essay

Matthew Smith is recognised as one of the greatest pioneers of Modern British art. Often referred to as the ‘English Fauve’, he developed a unique modernist style, which emphasised the flatness of the painting surface by using broad areas of strong colour.

Smith first studied design at Manchester School of Art and then art at the Slade, but he struggled to follow the rigid confines of an academic institution where drawing was favoured over expression. He found the alternative training in France, and by 1910 he had settled in Paris, where he enrolled at Henri Matisse’s school of art, the Atelier Matisse. Although he may have only spent a few weeks at Matisse’s school, the influence of Fauvism is clear in his work: the quick application of paint, the separation of pure colours on the canvas and the recognition of colour as being of equal importance to form.

Smith’s stay in France brought other influences. It is known that he visited the Paris home of the modernist art collectors Gertrude and Leo Stein. There, he would have been introduced to the best works of Matisse, Vuillard, Bonnard, Cézanne, Van Gogh and Van Dongen. By 1911 and 1912 he was showing his first publicly exhibited works at the Salon des Indépendants, where in 1911 it staged the launch of the Cubist movement. Thus, when he had to return to England following the outbreak of the First World War, he had obtained a far greater knowledge of modern artistic trends than almost all of his English contemporaries.

During the time he was away, London had changed and had become a more ‘modern’ city. Roger Fry had staged his Post-Impressionist exhibitions, the Omega workshop had emerged, and Wyndham Lewis’ Vorticist movement had arisen. Taking a studio at Fitzroy Street, Smith responded almost immediately to the wealth of these creative influences.

This outpour of creativity continued into the 1920s, a prolific period for Smith, during which he created some of his finest works. Peonies and Lilies is a particularly strong example of this fruitful period, where he boldly plays with the use of colour, transposing the traditional notion of still life painting. Using a series of rich blues and pinks, which he applies with thick, vigorous brushstrokes, Smith succeeds in creating a work which is not only visually arresting but imbues a wonderful sense of drama and visceral energy.

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