Peter Lanyon is one of Britain’s most important Post-War artists, but curiously he has never become a household name. This is probably because of his untimely early death in 1964 after a gliding accident.
Ironically, it was Lanyon's love of gliding that prompted some of his most radical work. Combining multiple perspectives over air, sea and land along the coast of his native Cornwall in his compositions, Lanyon essentially reinvented the tradition of landscape painting. Now, the Courtauld Gallery stages the first ever exhibition devoted entirely to the artist’s gliding paintings - one that fans of modernism will adore.
After returning from World War II in 1945, Lanyon established himself as part of the St Ives' Penrith Society, led by superstar artist couple Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. Lanyon, who was a generation younger than Nicholson and Hepworth, was uncomfortable at the way the society insisted its members should declare themselves either abstract or representational. He reacted against definition and sought to develop his own visual language that captured the rugged Cornish landscape which he loved.
Painting and Style
When Lanyon began gliding seriously in 1959, he attempted to incorporate the fascinating juxtaposition of the human body with the windswept cliffs and sea into his landscape paintings. His work, influenced in part by Abstract Expressionism, adopted a fluidity that was emboldened by the swirling movements and currents which propelled him through the air.
This Courtauld exhibition captures the soaring freedom of Lanyon's finest work, and gives the gliding paintings their long awaited moment in the spotlight. There is a real sense of dynamism in these works. Capturing the energy and unpredictability of a glider in motion, they offer the viewer a visceral thrill. Landscape and seascape become entangled in meshes of colour. Set alongside these stunning paintings are a series of sculptures: innovative abstract models which further explore the perspectival insights offered by flight.
The curation is careful and illuminating, drawing out the relations between flight, emotion, and eroticism. It is a wonderful exhibition, and one which brings to light an unduly neglected body of work.
|What||Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings, Courtauld Gallery|
Strand, London, WC2R 0RN | MAP
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
15 Oct 15 – 17 Jan 16, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
|Price||£8.50* (concessions available)|
|Website||Click here for more details|