In the 1951 ICA exhibition Raymond Mortimer wrote, 'In 1938 Mr. Sutherland's first one-man show came to me as an exhilarating revelation. My confidence in my high estimate of his powers came then, and still comes, partly from a lack of affinity between his art and my taste or temperament. We may easily exaggerate the merits of work that expresses in a congenial idiom feelings akin to our own. To impress us profoundly with an art that runs counter to our fortified preferences implies a stature that amounts to genius.
Most painters have been concerned either to reveal the formal beauty discernable in the appearance of persons and landscapes, or else to create an imaginary world more beautiful than ours. Mr. Sutherland's response to Nature and to the symbols of religion is much less æsthetic. He is rich, it is true, in the specific painterliness that I specially value: his drawing is lively, his colour inventive; he has above all a beautiful touch with his brush. But the forms with which he composes are organic rather than architectural.
Though he neglects the tonal values and local colour with which appearances are convincingly conveyed, he is faithful to the shapes of Nature. Dare I suggest even that he has resumed, and, invigorated that method of submission to natural forms which was unsuccessfully attempted in Minoan Art and in the Art Nouveau style? To anyone who finds his fullest satisfaction in the art of the Italian Renaissance - in The School of Athens rather than in the Isenheim Altarpiece - Mr. Sutherland's mystical absorption in the irregularities of undisciplined Nature must appear alien because so anti-humanistic.
It is thus against my ingrained predispositions that I salute Mr. Sutherland, subjugated by the intensity with which he projects his so personal and imaginative vision. To live with his pictures entails, I have found, facing a continual challenge which brings with it a life-enhancing experience' (Exhibition catalogue, Graham Sutherland, London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1951).