Spanish Landscape with Mountains demonstrates Carrington’s fascination with the Andalusian landscape which she visited during her travels throughout France and Spain in the 1920s. The steep, rolling mountains in the foreground of this painting contrast with the jagged peaks in the background, and the impression is of a distant territory, both unfamiliar and alien. In a departure from the blues and greens which dominate her earlier pictures of the English countryside, for example Farm at Watendlath 1921 (Tate T04945), Carrington responds to the Andalusian landscape with vibrant oranges and yellows. The enormous scale of the mountains is emphasised by the inclusion of four mules and their muleteers which are just visible along a narrow path, and the warm climate is evident from the cacti which grows in the otherwise barren landscape. Carrington exploits the sense of isolation in this forbidding terrain, reflecting the exoticism of landscape painters such as James Dickson Innes (1887-1914) and Augustus John (1878-1961).
Carrington made studies for this painting at Yegen, a town 4000 feet above sea level in Southern Spain which offered spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. She wrote to the friend of her husband Ralph Partridge (1894-1960), Gerald Brenan (1894-1987), who was then living in Yegen: ‘I am very happy working on two Yegen pictures. They transport me into another world. I cannot express quite what a relief it is’ (Carrington, p.60). She completed this work when she returned to her home at Tidmarsh Mill near Pangbourne, and referred to it again in a letter to Brenan: ‘I am working on the landscape you liked; the round mountains near the gorges. I am trying a new plan, an entire underpainting in brilliant colours, over which I shall glaze green and more transparent colours’ (Carrington, p.60). The green she refers to in this letter may have been used for the cacti which grow abundantly in the foreground. The painting was bequeathed to Tate by the Bloomsbury writer, Frances Partridge (1900-2004), who in 1933 married Carrington’s former husband, Ralph Partridge, following her early death from suicide.
Gretchen Gerzina Carrington: A Life of Dora Carrington 1893-1932, London 1989
Noel Carrington Carrington: Paintings, Drawings and Decorations, London 1978, illustrated in colour p.60
Carrington: The Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, Barbican Art Gallery 1995