Stanley William Hayter

Fish in the Escoutay

1951

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 546 x 1480 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1952
Reference
N06069

Display caption

An impression of darting, fluid movement is suggested by this work. Hayter was influenced by Surrealism and the idea of allowing images to rise from the unconscious part of the mind. He was also an experienced sailor, and this painting reflects his fascination with movement in water. 'The trajectory of movement is more clearly defined in water' he said; 'I can follow the laws of space better in the substance of water which is dense and at the same time fluid.'

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

N06069 POISSONS DE L'ESCOUTAY 1951
 
Inscr. ‘Hayter 51’ b.r.
Canvas, 21 1/2×58 1/4 (55×148).
Purchased from the artist (Knapping Fund) 1952.
Exh: Whitechapel Art Gallery, November 1957 (56, repr. pl.27).
Lit: ‘Quel Paysage avez-vous choisi?’ in Arts, Paris, No.368, 10 July 1952, p.10, repr. as ‘Paysage abstrait’.

Painted in the summer of 1951, when the artist bought a house at Alba in the Ardèche; he continued to paint there throughout subsequent summers. ‘Alba has greatly influenced Hayter's colour - an increased brilliance and heightened interest in light, deriving possibly from a preoccupation with L'Escoutay, a nearby stream. Began to use metallic colours (first experimented with in 1929) to get two alternative views of a picture according to the spectator's vantage point - like a positive and negative - and found that the practice transformed all colours used in such a painting’ (Whitechapel Art Gallery exh. cat., 1957, p.10).

In an interview published in Arts (loc. cit.) the artist said in reply to a question about his interest in water: ‘The trajectory of movement is more clearly defined in water. I can follow the laws of space better in the substance of water which is dense and at the same time fluid - But does this trajectory indicate pursuit? - Naturally, life is a pursuit, work is a pursuit. It is not the goal that impassions me but the pursuit towards a creation, the value of which is indifferent to me.’

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I