Highlights include pictures from the David Bowie collection, from the collections of the Arts Council of England and the British Council, including Bojewyan Farms, and other important works. This centenary exhibition is curated by art historian Toby Treves, a leading expert on Lanyon and coincides with the publication of his catalogue raisonné on the artist (Modern Art Press).
Lanyon is now considered to be one of the most significant British landscape painters of the mid-twentieth century. His contribution to the landscape genre was greatly indebted both to gestural painting and to Constructivism, which he first encountered in St Ives through Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo and Ben Nicholson.
Lanyon modernised the Romantic tradition of the landscape painting. Rather than depicting places from one position at a single moment in time, Lanyon saw that it was now possible to express the on-going experience of being in a place and to invest it with memory, knowledge and feeling. In the early 1950s, he wrote, ‘I paint landscape just as Constable, Turner, Wilson and Wilson Steer only I live in 1951 and therefore am incapable of doing the work they did.’
Treves has concentrated on Lanyon’s Cornish landscape paintings in this exhibition because these works form a central part of the artist’s oeuvre. They have not been the subject of an exhibition in London for many decades – indeed some have never been exhibited in the United Kingdom.
In the Cornish paintings, Lanyon immerses himself emotionally and physically in his native landscape of Penwith, the westernmost part of Cornwall. With his desire to feel a stronger sense of place, he walked, rode, and drove over the windswept moors of Penwith. He skin-dived in the sea and went down the tin mines. And finally, he flew over it in his glider and discovered not only a new perspective on the land but a whole new realm of the physical world: the inside of the sky.