A new exhibition exploring the British artist Graham Sutherland (1903-1980), one of the great British landscape painters during the 1940s and 50s, is to take place this June in the Lake District. One of the best known artists this country has produced, Sutherland initially inspired by the visionary landscapes of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century artists such as William Blake and Samuel Palmer, transcended his influences to create a vocabulary that was uniquely his own. This exhibition highlights the brilliant power of Sutherland’s imagination and demonstrates the diverse ways in which he transformed his experience of his environment.
Central to Sutherland’s conception of the landscape was the ‘accidental encounter’: the small-scale natural forms, such as tree roots, stones or foliage, that he would stumble upon by chance and work up into pulsating new creations. At the same time, he might also take a wide, open landscape and make it feel enclosed and self-contained as if it were an object. Although Sutherland found inspiration in a number of different locations – Kent, the West Midlands, Derbyshire, and the South of France – it was the Pembrokeshire coast, in Wales, to which he most frequently returned. It was a place whose ‘exultant strangeness’ was to exert such a powerful spell on Sutherland throughout his life.
This exhibition features striking, otherworldly landscapes from throughout Sutherland’s career: early, meticulous etchings which owe a debt to masters such as Rembrandt, Whistler and Palmer, the wonderfully fluid drawings and iconic paintings from the 1930s and 40s with their haunting forms, sinuous lines and daring compositions, and the mysterious late landscapes, rich in colour and often monumental in scale.
Since the artist’s death in 1980 there have been only a handful of exhibitions dedicated to Sutherland and few that encompass such a broad timescale. As well as including key works from public collections, such as Entrance to a Lane, 1939 (Tate), Green Tree Form, 1940 (British Council) and Western Hills, 1938/41 (National Galleries of Scotland), the show will feature a significant number of loans from private collections, many of them rarely exhibited before. A large proportion of these have been secured with the generous support of the Crane Kalman Gallery, to whom a selection of works will travel after the showing at Abbot Hall.
‘Abbot Hall Art Gallery, located on the edge of the Lake District, has a wonderful collection of picturesque and sublime landscapes from the golden age of British watercolour, as well as important works by Neo-Romantic artists such as John Piper and Graham Sutherland himself. The intimate spaces of Abbot Hall provide an ideal environment, therefore, for Sutherland’s “paraphrased” landscapes, and this exhibition promises to be a truly spectacular celebration of one of this country’s most daring and visionary artists.’
Nick Rogers, Curator, Lakeland Arts Trust
29 June – 15 September 2013 Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal