PATRICK HERON (1920-1999)
PATRICK HERON (1920-1999)
PATRICK HERON (1920-1999)
PATRICK HERON (1920-1999)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
PATRICK HERON (1920-1999)


PATRICK HERON (1920-1999)
signed and dated 'Patrick Heron/49' (lower right)
oil on canvas
36 x 20 in. (91.4 x 50.8 cm.)
Painted in 1949.
Purchased by the present owner's husband at the 1952 exhibition.
V. Knight (intro.), Patrick Heron, London, 1988, n.p., pl. 14.
Wakefield, City Art Gallery, Patrick Heron: Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings, April - May 1952, no. 42: this exhibition travelled to Leeds, The University, May 1952; Halifax, Bankfield Museum, May - June 1952; Scarborough, The Art Gallery, July - August 1952; and Hull, Ferens Art Gallery, August - September 1952.
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

ROUND TABLE AGAINST THE SEA : 1949 is one of the finest of a series of radical and ground-breaking still-life paintings made by Patrick Heron between 1948 and 1951. An elegant fusion of the recent influence of avant-garde French painting on him, (especially the work of Georges Braque, Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard), it was in these increasingly free and lyrical still-life paintings that Heron first developed his own inimitable style. Founded upon an intuitive and personal interpretation of the objects laid out before him on a table in front of the window of his St Ives studio, it was paintings such as ROUND TABLE AGAINST THE SEA : 1949 that first championed Heron’s idea of using freeform colour as space and in which he took the first steps towards the complete abstraction he would later develop in the mid-1950s.

As the art-historian Mel Gooding has written of this painting: in ROUND TABLE AGAINST THE SEA : 1949, Heron was at last consolidating a decisively personal manner in which the primary influences on his approach to figurative presentation were integrated into a style indisputably and unmistakably his own ... Interior and window, the table with still life, … are important in this: they are the familiar materials for visual variations, presenting a repertoire of known forms to be translated into the abstract configurations that will give the painting its own pictorial felicity, its own musical dynamics. They are in this respect Heron’s version of the “humble pretexts” of classic Cubism, those pipes and glasses, jugs and guitars whose shapes, and relations in space, are the true subjects of an art devoted to the magical transformation of familiar things into poetic relativities’ (M. Gooding, Patrick Heron, London, 1994, p. 66).

Heron painted ROUND TABLE AGAINST THE SEA : 1949 on his return to England after spending much of the year and the previous one in France, first living with friends in Antibes and later visiting Georges Braque in Paris. The motif of a table standing before a window that looks out over the sea is one that, although it derives from Heron’s own St Ives studio, closely echoes its same use by Matisse and Braque and the way in which they too incorporated it into a clever interplay of colour, form and interior and exterior space. Indeed, it was precisely this aspect of Braque’s work - his lyrical fusion of object, colour and space - that had so intrigued Heron when he first saw Braque’s most recent paintings at an exhibition held at the Tate in 1946. Moved to visit the artist while in Paris in 1949, Heron subsequently wrote a revealing article for The New Statesman that summer in which he claimed Braque to be ‘the greatest figure in painting today’ adding also that, ‘the richness of his invention, coupled with its essential solidity, could provide the most profitable basis or point of departure for younger artists. Unlike Picasso or Matisse, who themselves complete most of what they begin, Braque gives us something impersonal to get hold of, something that is valid as a building material’ (Patrick Heron, ‘Paris Summer, 1940’, The New Statesman and Nation, 16 July 1949).

Mirroring also Matisse, whose Red Studio had also proved a revelation for Heron at this time, ROUND TABLE AGAINST THE SEA : 1949 is a magnificent translation of everything that Heron valued in Braque’s work into a fluid and continuous colourful interplay of interior and exterior space and of internal and external form. Here, for one of the first times in Heron’s oeuvre, line and colour now orchestrate a perpetual and essentially abstract rhythm that runs throughout the painting: one in which the oval of the table and of the fish resting upon it, for example, find a visual echo in the curve of the window, while the light, colour and space of the picture also combine seamlessly to enliven and interpenetrate every object: inside and outside.

As Heron wrote many years later in a letter to the Tate about such table-by-the-window pictures of this period, it was the unique sensation of space, provided by the seaview from his window in St Ives, that had effectively prompted his unique exploration of colour as space in these paintings. ‘I shall never forget’, he wrote, ‘the immense sensation of space the first moment we entered that room, at the end of our journey from London ... this was the window occurring over and over again in my paintings of that period, whether we were actually in St Ives when I painted them, or at home at Addison Avenue, Holland Park. I probably painted more St Ives harbour window paintings in London than in Cornwall … My habit of drawing in charcoal on a white ground, and then slotting planes of colour in between the grid of charcoal drawing, was still the procedure followed here ... Also established at the time ... was my habit of only applying one coat of colour over the white ground, which seems to be responsible for the brilliance of hue … From Braque came the idea of the “transparency” of the objects … On the other hand, the nature of my charcoal drawing is far removed from Braque, for instance, there is not a single rigidly straight line, nor a pure arc or circle; in their loose and speedy linearity these charcoal grids are therefore, if anything, nearer Matisse – though I would have thought they are perhaps personal and rather English’ (P. Heron, ‘Letter to the Tate’, 1980, quoted in M. Gooding, Patrick Heron, London, 1994, p. 74).

We are very grateful to Susanna Heron and Andrew Wilson for assisting in the preparation of this catalogue entry. The Patrick Heron Trust is in the process of researching the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work and would like to hear from owners of any works by Patrick Heron, so that these can be included in this comprehensive catalogue. Please write to The Patrick Heron Trust, c/o Christie's Modern British Art Department, 8 King Street, London, SW1Y 6QT, or email at

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