In January 1953 Peter Lanyon rented a studio in the Italian hill town of Anticoli Corrado, having been awarded an Italian Government scholarship to travel in Italy. 'I am here in the mountains and beginning to work … the country promising and I propose to get a horse and see the place that way. Very cold and primitive … what a place this is ...' (letter from the artist to Charles Gimpel, 25 January 1953).
Anticoli and the surrounding landscape awakened an interest in a time, primitive, simple, pre-industrial. He felt a certain brutality of existence in the Abruzzi hills that brought the wider themes of human relations, sex and death to the fore. 'I am developing an aversion for the manners which cloak animal intentions and getting a strong taste of the primitive tongue which operates bodily and massively mainly by instinct. That is anticoli (sic) … the pride is fiercer than St Ives because commerce has not shaved the hand marks off the stones' (letter from the artist to Terry Frost, 30 April 1953).
Lanyon’s paintings at this time start to become more sensuous and looser with paint, smeared as well as brushed. Even though the present work is a watercolour and gouache on paper this physicality can still be felt through the strength of line and simplified palette. The deep, earthy red that dominates this work is far more about Lanyon’s reaction to his surroundings than the landscape itself: the 'primitive tongue’ rather than the 'manners which cloak animal intentions’.