The picture-postcard perfection of the world in Castle with Sailboats, painted in 1969, absorbs the viewer. The landscape is a sublime one, filled with pleasure and beauty. Morleys Super-Realism has transformed his small photographic source into something larger and more imposing, but also somehow more real. The size of the work appears to lend it an authority that a postcard would lack, whereas here Morley has taken the image and meticulously presented it in traditional oils, and on a more traditional scale. Through this disruption of an everyday source image, he creates a landscape that is not only Super-Realist, but also Pop. The theme of boats recurs throughout Morleys work, but here the ocean liners and battleships with which he is often associated are replaced by sailing boats, reinforcing the sense of idle pleasure and whimsy that characterises the painting.
Morley began creating the photorealist paintings for which he is best known in the mid-1960s; however, they began to retire from his output in 1970. These works were therefore the product of a relatively brief phase in his extensive career, and the painstaking rigours of his painting technique necessarily meant they were not painted in large numbers. Castle with Sailboats, painted shortly before Morley abandoned photorealism, shows Morley at his technical apogee.
Taking a photographic image as his source, Morley engages the viewer in a Duchampian dialogue. The landscape is so crisp and inviting that we see it as realistic to the extreme, yet it is the perfect reproduction not of a landscape, but of the source image itself. Morleys art centred on the almost perverse manipulation of subject matter and the viewers reflex reading of the work. Our pleasurable reactions to this German paradise is in direct opposition with the calculated, mathematical, scientific discipline with which the artist created the painting. Interestingly, Morleys first years in New York showed him exploring the Abstract Expressionist idiom in his painting. His Super-Realism appears not only as a direct attack on that movements lack of representative features, but also on the blood-and-guts physicality of the painting processes of many Absract Expressionist artists. Although Morley has over the years embraced the United States, and been embraced by them, Castle with Sailboats shows a British sense of irony that he has retained.