Graham Sutherland - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Monday, February 8, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Curt Valentin, New York (as per the inscription on the reverse)
    Acquired by the family of the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Torino, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Sutherland, October-November 1965, no. 99
    Basel, Kunsthalle, Graham Sutherland Retrospective, 5 February-13 March 1966,
    Munich, Haus der Kunst, Graham Sutherland Retrospective,11 March-7 May 1967, no 46, then travelled to The Hague, Gemeentemuseum (June-July), Berlin, Haus am Waldsee (August-September), Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum (October-November).

  • Literature

    Sutherland, exh. cat., Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Milan, 1965, no. 99 p. 228 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born in London in 1903, Graham Sutherland is rightly regarded as one of Britain’s most important painters in the twentieth century, realising a bridge between the playfully intellectual vernacular of Surrealism that openly deconstructed the subject and the more painterly, often highly-wrought lexis of the School of the London, which closely deconstructed the process.

    After eschewing a possible career as an engineer, Sutherland studied at Goldsmith’s College between 1920 and 1925, where he specialized as a printmaker. It is here that he immersed himself in the work of artists such as Samuel Palmer, J.M.W. Turner and the First World War artist, Paul Nash. Their landscapes, both literal and metaphysical, often described and unearthed dark narratives of the mind, revealing content closely aligned with the emptiness and pain of dislocation (of identity; of form; of place and, eventually, of meaning). This would have a telling influence on the young Sutherland; one that would resonate throughout his entire career. He would also become acquainted with, and heavily influenced, by the work of Henry Moore. Moore’s negotiation of figuration and abstraction, and his quest to seamlessly fuse these two binaries, would equally inspire (and often infuriate) Sutherland. After being included in a handful of smaller exhibitions, Sutherland would go on to exhibit in the first International Surrealist Exhibition in London in 1936 and, two years later, would receive his first solo exhibition at the Paul Rosenberg and Helft Gallery in London.

    It is important to note that at the end of his studies Sutherland would convert to Catholicism. Thus we see a young man disengage with the prosaic, utilitarian dynamic of a ‘science’ like engineering and eagerly embrace a new religion; one that reverberated in spheres of pomp, ceremony and the mystical. Indeed, Sutherland would go on to execute a series of vital commissions for churches across the United Kingdom, culminating in his designs for the extraordinary tapestry Christ in Glory in the Tetramorph (1954-57) in Coventry Cathedral. In a sense, this nurtured the visual and intellectual elasticity of the artist’s subject and, indeed, his praxis, which was still, at this time, heavily influenced by Surrealism.

    It is, however, his activity as an Official War Artist, between 1940-41 and 1944 that would inform the artist’s most important works in the immediate period following the end of the Second World War. During this period Sutherland painted several scenes of bomb damage in London and of work in mines and foundries in Cornwall and South Wales; activities that supported the war effort. These images are all based on natural forms and become the bedrock on which Sutherland would develop his mature artistic language.

    Following on from a series of celebrated ‘Crucifixions’ (a perfect marriage of his Surrealistic inclinations; his devoted Catholicism and his ongoing interest in the physical) in the late 1940’s, the early 1950’s saw Sutherland create a number of works which he called Hydrants. These paintings were stimulated by the artist’s memories of the mines and foundries he had visited during the Second World War. These Hydrants would also allow Sutherland to explore the relationship between the organic and the man-made – two contrasting idioms and weltanschaungen whose complex relationship would likewise compel and trouble artists such as Bacon, Moore, Armitage and Paolozzi. Indeed, there is a clear synergy between the present work and the equally agitated, vertically-thrust depiction of Henry Moore’s Mother and Child (1954), now in the collection of the Tate. Both Sutherland’s painting and Moore’s sculpture seem at once familiar and yet distant, delivering an extraordinary push-pull of meaning between object and viewer. This dynamic, hovering between the annals of fact and fiction, is also continued in Sutherland’s technique and palette. The dark background is here licked with quick flicks of gold and a ‘papal purple’, phrasing the animate and inanimate in the very same voice. This easily speaks of the same painterly language one finds in Francis Bacon’s contemporaneous paintings of screaming Popes and closeted men, hidden in dark blue corners.

    This outstanding painting, executed the year after Sutherland’s celebrated retrospective at the Tate Gallery in 1954, is thus a telling symbiosis of the mechanical and the natural; the physical and the metaphysical. A totem-like form, both figurative and abstract, that attempts to convey and celebrate not only the heroic struggle of a war effort, but illuminate the artist’s own efforts to simultaneously capture that spirit of determination and the complexity of his own enterprise.

Property from a Distinguished European Family Collection

Ο ◆19

Hydrant with Black Ground

oil on canvas
132 x 60.6 cm (51 7/8 x 23 7/8 in.)
Signed and dated 'Sutherland 1954' on the lower right. Further signed, titled, dated and inscribed 'G. Sutherland "Hydrant with Black Ground" 1954 Coll. Curt Valentin' on the reverse.

£180,000 - 250,000 

Sold for £218,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London

+44 207 318 4063

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 9 February 2016 7pm