Catalogue entry

Patrick Heron 1920-1999

T00962 Scarlet, Lemon and Ultramarine: March 1957

Inscribed ‘Patrick Heron’ and ‘March 1957’on back of canvas; ‘Scarlet Lemon and Ultramarine 24” x 72” March 1957’ on stretcher. Canvas, 24 x 72 (60 x 183).
Purchased from the artist (Alistair McAlpine Fund) 1967.
Exh: Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh, June–July 1967 (47).
Lit: Ronald Alley, ‘Patrick Heron: the development of a painter’, in Studio International, CLXXIV, July–August 1967, pp. 18–25; Alan Bowness, ‘On Patrick Heron’s Striped Paintings’, in catalogue of retrospective exhibition, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, May-June 1968.

The artist has written of this and related works (23 July 1968): ‘My vertical stripe colour painting, Scarlet and Lemon with Ultramarine: March 1957 (24” x 72”) was painted at Zennor in March 1957, which was the same month in which I painted the first of my other explicit vertical stripe paintings, the best known of which were those included in my exhibition of both vertical and horizontal stripe paintings at the Redfern Gallery in February, 1958. These were Vertical Light: March 1957 (22” x 48”) and Vertical Bands: March 1957 (30” x 48”). Vertical Light: March 1957 was reproduced in colour in Studio International, July-August 1967, together with a black-and-white reproduction of Vertical Bands: March 1957.

‘In addition to-the three vertical stripe paintings just named I painted other pictures in March, 1957, in which the colour was equally brilliant and flat, but in which the element of the vertical band or stripe was slightly modified – that is to say, not all the vertical bands reached the top and the bottom of the canvas, as they do in the three pictures named. Chief of these was Scarlet Verticals: March 1957, in which a framework of vertical bands spreading across the canvas from extreme right to extreme left (all of which extend from top to bottom of the canvas) are made to hold three or four ‘blocks’ comprised of shorter vertical strokes, as it were suspended amongst the vertical bands. This picture shows the connection between the bands in a stripe painting like Scarlet and Lemon with Ultramarine: March 1957 and the vertical strokes in very many earlier works. For instance, during 1956 I painted a great many canvases (vaguely labelled tachiste at the time – incorrectly, I believe) in which broad, rigidly vertical strokes from a heavy brush are clustered unevenly throughout the canvas. In one of these, Black and White Vertical /: March 1957 (72” x 36”) (exhibited Redfern Gallery, June 1956, and reproduced in Studio International, July-August 1967) the vertical black strokes overlap to give the illusion of a rigid vertical column just to the left of centre. So I think it would be true to say that the vertical stripes of March 1957 grew out of a habit of making (throughout 1956) emphatic vertical gestures with a large brush.

‘Nevertheless, once one had expanded these vertical strokes until they filled a horizontal canvas from end to end – then one suddenly realised one had found an entirely new format for the purest possible statement of colour. contrasts and relationships. Colour stripes had been arrived at: but they had been arrived at indirectly, as a result of trial and error. And, again, once one saw what could be done with these vertical divisions of the canvas into different coloured bands, one also immediately wondered how a vertical canvas that had been similarly divided into horizontal colour-bands would work. Obviously the colours in horizontal bands would read quite differently from the same colours painted in vertical bands. During April 1957 – the month following my first vertical bands – I made my first horizontal band paintings: Ochre Skies: April 1957 (48” x 22”) is a good example, and was one of several horizontal stripe paintings included in the Redfern exhibition of February, 1958.

‘From all I have said I hope it is clear that there was nothing theoretical in the way I arrived at the vertical and horizontal stripes of March and April, 1957, respectively’.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1967–1968, London 1968.