Browse Lots

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
Edward Burra (1905-1976)
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VA… Read more
Edward Burra (1905-1976)

Distant View of Florence

Details
Edward Burra (1905-1976)
Distant View of Florence
stamped 'E.J. Burra' (lower left)
watercolour and bodycolour
52¼ x 31 in. (132.6 x 78.7 cm.)
Executed in 1965-7.
Provenance
with Lefevre Gallery, London, where purchased by the present owner at the 1969 exhibition.
Literature
Exhibition catalogue, Recent Works by Edward Burra, London, Lefevre Gallery, London, 1969, illustrated.
A. Causey, Edward Burra Complete Catalogue, Oxford, 1985, no. 322, illustrated.
Exhibited
London, Lefevre Gallery, Recent Works by Edward Burra, April - May 1969, no. 5.
Special Notice

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

Lot Essay


Burra had visited Florence previously in the 1920s while his sister was studying art at a finishing school and went back to visit his friends, the novelist Jennings Rice and his wife Marie, in September 1965, when the present work was painted. Distant View of Florence is typical of Burra's later work as he increasingly favoured large-scale empty landscapes.

Andrew Causey comments, 'Burra's isolation of houses and farmsteads as tiny white spots on a hillside or flat plain defined in effect the cultivated, civilised world as a series of enclaves in the midst of boundless nature. Even if the lonely farmhouse can be seen as a metaphor for the condition of the individual in an unfriendly world, it does not imply that Burra necessarily sympathized with the Romantics' sense of nature as a divine manifestation, and landscape therefore as a bridge between man and cosmos. Burra clung to reality, painful though it was, rather than engage in building cosmologies he did not believe in, and landscape remained for him ... a place of last resort for the disenchanted' (op. cit., p. 78).

The reality that Burra depicted in his paintings, however, has a strangely unsettling effect. Distant View of Florence is peopled in the foreground by a strange gathering of other worldly figures, including an accusatory group who point at a cloaked figure emerging from the forest.

More from 20th Century British Art

View All
View All