In such paintings as After Lunch 1975 (Tate T02033) Patrick Caulfield's investigation into the nature of pictorial representation was staged within a highly contrived but spatially logical composition. However, during the mid to late 1980s, as is evident in Interior with a Picture, the stabilising element of rational pictorial space was discarded, and varied textures and a uniformly warm palette were introduced.

The black descriptive line, which had been the primary means of defining form and space in earlier paintings, is used sparingly in Interior with a Picture. In fact, only the corner of the corridor, the dado-rail and the banister are described by a black line. For most of the picture Caulfield uses flat blocks of colour to suggest form and space. The juxtaposition of these two styles contributes to the uncertainty surrounding the relationship of the staircase to the rest of the interior, the position of the still-life painting in relation to the wall, and the precise arrangement of the floor level.

In addition to these styles, the still life picture in the upper centre introduces realism. The image is copied from an illustration of Meal by Candlelight (Hessisches Landesmuseum Collection, Darmstadt) by the German seventeenth century painter Gottfried von Wedig (1583-1641), which Caulfield had found in Charles Sterling's book Still Life Painting from Antiquity to the Present Time. In his version of the painting Caulfield has enlarged the book illustration of von Wedig's picture to approximately the same size as the original and then painted a modern frame around it. The flat yellow shaft of light that illuminates the painting contrasts with the subtle modulations of light within the still life itself.

Directly below this highly illusionistic passage of painting is an oval motif, perhaps a mirror frame, formed from three thick strands of acrylic paint squeezed from the paint tube onto the canvas. The dialogue between two dimensional, naturalistic representation and three-dimensional reality is a common theme in Caulfield's work during this period, and part of his wider exploration of the artifice of painting.

Further reading:
Patrick Caulfield, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 1999, reproduced p.97, (colour)
Jennifer Mundy (ed.), Brancusi to Beuys: Works from the Ted Power Collection, London 1996, p.60, reproduced p.61 (colour)

Toby Treves
November 2000