Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Peter Lanyon (1918-1964)   BIOGRAPHY

 
Porthmeor Mural, 1962
Framed (ref: 5566)

Signed and dated 1962, inscribed with title
Oil on canvas
106.7 x 965.2 cm (42 x 380 in.)


 


 Provenance: Commissioned by Stanley Seeger, USA

Literature: Andrew Lanyon, Peter Lanyon 1918-1964, Newlyn, 1990, p.302-309, illustrated in colour; Margaret Garlake, Peter Lanyon, Tate Gallery, London, 1998, pp.58, 59, 63, 72, illustrated in colour; Chris Stephens, Peter Lanyon: At The Edge of Landscape, 21 Publishing, London, 2000, p.162, no illustrations

Exhibitions: Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, Peter Lanyon – Paintings, Drawings and Constructions 1937-64, 1978, cat no.77 Bath, Victoria Art Gallery, Porthmeor, A Peter Lanyon Mural Rediscovered, October 25, 2008 - January 4, 2009, pp.5-19, illus colour p.15 and pp.36-7

In January 1962, Peter Lanyon was commissioned by the American art collector Stanley J. Seeger to paint a mural for his home Bois d’Arc, in
Frenchtown, New Jersey. The site, a music studio in a converted barn, required a work nearly ten times as wide as it was high and offered Lanyon the opportunity to paint on a grand scale. After viewing the space at Seeger’s estate at the beginning of 1962 Lanyon returned to St Ives, where he produced three life-size sketches in gouache and indian ink. These were Porthleven, based on his oil in the Tate Gallery collection, Delaware, inspired by the river near Seeger’s home, and Bois d’Arc, ‘a lyrical and light design concerned with the surface rhythms which might appear in the final work’.
In his notes, Lanyon writes that the mural ‘refers to many aspects of the sea, including associated myths. The main appearance of it is as a fast moving sea, with cross-shore drift and counter drift.’ In Lanyon’s paintings, a landscape is invariably the compression of multiple perspectives, depicting land and sea from different viewpoints, in different weathers and at different times of day. He sought to portray not only the sensation of being in the landscape, but to create a complete portrait of a place, encompassing personal and collective history, culture and myth. It is clear that the subject of the mural, and its precise symbolic meaning for Lanyon, evolved as the project progressed. Lanyon associated the yellow area on the left with the Golden Fleece and he described the left-hand side of the painting as representing ‘the past and events across the sea’.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the collaborative nature of its creation, the final mural is a multi-layered and highly subjective work. This unique project bears comparison with Stanley Spencer’s commission to paint the interior of the Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere (1927-1932), an earlier example of private patronage, in which a chapel was conceived as a memorial to a lost brother. In both cases, the specifics of place and the almost self-indulgent nature of the commissions were, ironically, the catalysts for highly autobiographical works of art. The quality and completeness of these murals is such that they have outlived their patrons and transcended their original contexts to become masterpieces of twentieth-century British art.



Peter Lanyon (1918-1964)

(George) Peter Lanyon (8 February 1918 – 31 August 1964) was a Cornish painter of landscapes leaning heavily towards abstraction.
He also made constructions, pottery and collage.
 
Lanyon was born in St Ives, Cornwall, the only son of W H Lanyon, an amateur photographer and musician. He was educated at Clifton College. St Ives remained his base, and he received after-school painting lessons from Borlase Smart. In 1937 he met Adrian Stokes, who is thought to have introduced him to contemporary painting and sculpture and who advised him to go to the Euston Road School, where he studied for four months under Victor Pasmore. In 1936-37 he also attended Penzance School of Art. In 1939 he met established artists Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo, who had moved to St Ives on the outbreak of war. Lanyon received private art tuition from Nicholson.
 
The character of his work changed completely and he became very involved with making constructions. Throughout the 1940s the influence of Nicholson and Gabo remained strongly visible in his work.
 
From 1940 to 1945 he served with the Royal Air Force in the Western Desert, Palestine and Italy. Also in 1946 he became an active member of the Crypt Group of Artists, St Ives. During the 1950s he became established as a leading figure in the St. Ives group of artists.
 
Lanyon took up gliding as a pastime and used the resulting experience extensively in his paintings. He died in Taunton, Somerset, as the result of injuries received in a gliding accident and is buried in St. Uny's Church, Lelant.

See all works by Peter Lanyon