Catalogue entry

T03268 FRANCE ON THE HORIZON 1975

Not inscribed
Black and white photograph and letraset mounted on paper, 43 3/16 × 51 3/4 (110 × 129.5)
Purchased from the Waddington Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1981
Prov: P.M.J. Self Gallery 1975; Anthony d'Offay Ltd (?) 1975; Waddington Galleries 1980
Exh: Peintres Anglais 1960–1980, Galerie de France, Paris, November–December 1980 (no catalogue)

This entry is based on a conversation with the artist (4 November 1981). It has been approved by him.

This work resulted from a day-long fifty mile circular walk via Dover, which the artist undertook in June 1975. At that time he was living at Saltwood, near Hythe in Kent and setting out from his house in the early hours of the morning, he arrived at Dover at around five or six a.m., returning home late that night.

Fulton took this photograph, which shows a view over the English Channel, from a position above the Dover cliffs, where there is an indentation in the Downs, just to the east of the docks. He has pointed out that, from the photograph, it is difficult to tell that when taking it, he was standing above the White Cliffs and that the sea was far below him. The photograph records the early morning light and the coast of France, which in broad daylight is sometimes clearly visible across the Strait of Dover, during the summer months, here resembles a dark island on the horizon. (Fulton has recalled that the light changed shortly after he had photographed the view).

Before setting out the artist had not had a clear idea as to what direction he would take or what he might see on the walk but having photographed this view, he realized that it was entirely appropriate to his feelings about that particular day. He told the compiler that he thinks it probable that afterwards he put his camera away for the rest of the walk.

Fulton is careful to balance the images and texts in his work and because ‘France on the Horizon’ records a part of England which holds so many historic associations, he felt that in this instance the photograph only needed a straightforward factual caption, ‘france on the horizon - 21 miles across the channel/a one day 50 mile walk by way of the white cliffs of dover/england summer 1975’.

As he looked out over the Channel, he was reminded that this is the narrowest stretch of water between England and France and that Britain was once joined to the Continent of Europe. He remembers thinking about the Second World War, (in particular, the evacuation from Dunkirk and Vera Lynn's famous wartime song ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’) and about the special significance that the White Cliffs hold for travelling Britons. He was also reminded that he was looking at one of the busiest commercial shipping lanes in the world, although at the time the only ship he could see was a small tanker, (just visible in the top left of the photograph).

'France on the Horizon’ was made in an edition of three and the photographs were printed for Hamish Fulton by Adrian Ensor.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984