Patrick George

Hickbush, the Grove I


Patrick George 1923–2016
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 530 x 1270 mm
Purchased 1980

Not on display

Display caption

George has lived on land forming part of The Grove farm at Hickbush in Suffolk since 1961. He has painted many views of this area. This painting was done in the open air. George cut a seat out of a bank, set up his easel and left it there until work on the painting was finished. He worked on the picture from 26 September 1975 to 27 June 1976. There were forty-one painting sessions in 1975 and sixty-one in 1976. He started work each day at 12 noon and continued for as long as conditions allowed. Because the painting was made during a nine month period, it covered several seasons, not just one static set of conditions.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry



Not inscribed
Oil on canvas, 20 5/16 × 50 (53 × 126.8)
Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1980
Exh: Patrick George, Paintings and Drawings 1937–80, Serpentine Gallery, June–July 1980 and tour (July–October) to Hull and Brighton (66, repr.)
Lit: Lawrence Gowing, introduction to catalogue of George's 1980 retrospective exhibition

The following information is drawn from the artist's answers in conversation on 15 December 1982 and has been approved by him.

The Grove is a mixed arable farm run by Mr J. Cracknell and his sons. The farmhouse, an old building, can be glimpsed behind the left hand barn. The Grove is the centre of the area at Hickbush, Suffolk, where Patrick George paints landscapes. He has lived since 1961 on land forming part of The Grove farm. The viewpoint of this painting was suggested by George's wife, Susan Ward. A photograph of The Grove is printed on the inside front cover of the catalogue of George's 1980 retrospective exhibition. It is by Colin Ford, who also took the photograph of Patrick George painting out of doors which appears on the back cover of the same catalogue. This cover photograph is misleading, as although the image on the back cover appears to be continued without a break on the front cover, the front cover is in fact an inverted repetition of the back. Had the photograph on the back cover been accurately extended to the right, it would have shown The Grove. The Grove is close to the motif of the Tate's earlier landscape by George,T00908 ‘Hickbush’ 1961–5, being just over a hill to the north behind the position from which it was painted.

Patrick George normally keeps many brief landscape sketches on paper which are one means of considering which motifs to select to paint. Apart from one slight sketch of this kind, which he owns, there were no other works preparatory to ‘Hickbush, The Grove I’, which was painted entirely on the motif. Having established his viewpoint, George cut a seat out of the bank, set up his easel and left it there day and night until work on the picture was complete. He began work on 26 September 1975 and finished on 27 June 1976. There were forty-one painting sessions in 1975 and sixty-one in 1976. On each day on which he painted, he began work soon after 12 noon and then continued for as long as conditions permitted.

Inevitably during this period the appearance of the motif altered. Changes were both natural and manmade. Against the open door of the building furthest to the left pigs could sometimes be seen, and at an early stage George painted one in that position. In 1976 the crops in the foreground field rose so high that the position of the pig was concealed. George decided however not to represent the risen crops, and thus to preserve the pig. The picture was painted in autumn, winter, spring and summer; some trees are shown in full leaf and others (mostly in the distance) bare. The painting is of the whole nine-month period rather than of a single season. George would like to think that the fact that several seasons are represented in paintings of this kind was apparent, but is often surprised how little evident it seems to be.

He was compelled to make other decisions of inclusion or exclusion by changes in the scene resulting from the work of the farm. A manure heap ran the length of the pig sty which is the long low building second from the left. During the course of the painting this heap rose above the level of the bottom of the roof, concealing the line of the windows, and then fell to reveal them again. At the right end of the tall barn behind (the building just to left of centre) the pile of straw bales came and went. The barn itself emptied, giving a view through to the scene beyond. It was empty when the painting ended but George preferred to show it full. The most marked change in the scene was the erection during the course of the Tate's painting of a large black chute at the right end of the large barn just to the right of centre. George decided not to include it in the Tate's picture, but it can be seen in ‘Hickbush, The Grove II’ 1978–9 (oil on canvas, 21 3/4 × 54 3/8in., private collection, reproduced in the catalogue of George's 1980 retrospective), the only other work to date in which The Grove appears.

'Hickbush, The Grove I’ is built of an accumulation of observations of particular moments, but George aims to represent through these the essence of the observed motif rather its appearance in particular conditions. The sky area is the flat uninflected surface of the primed canvas. As in many of George's landscapes indication of weather is omitted deliberately. On the whole, cast shadows are omitted also, as being even less permanent than some of the other changing features of the scene.

In a letter of 10 January 1983 the artist added ‘The ordering of the position of the paint on the canvas is decided by a comparative system of proportions. In this case generated from the apparent width between the supports of the barns. All the other proportions are compounds of these widths.

'The greatest proportion of time is spent on the procedure of “measuring” and in the wind it is a very frustrating occupation and drives one nearly mad with vexation... The thing about measure is that in some sense it does not change rain or shine and when it does change (the branches of trees spring up when they shed their leaves) one can see what has changed rather than feeling that somehow or other things are different.’

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