This drawing was probably made on the spot in the Abruzzi mountains to the east of Rome. Though almost all Lanyon's work was made in his native Cornwall, three months in Italy stimulated an important body of work. In 1952 he had won an Italian government scholarship to study in Italy. He travelled to Rome in January 1953, but quickly left the city for the hill town of Anticoli Corrado, where he took a studio. Anticoli was an established artists colony which, though past its prime, still boasted several artists and a plentiful supply of studio space. Derk Hill, the Director of the British School at Rome, had a home there and, as a consequence, several British artists visited the place during the 1950s. Lanyon, however, said that he was attracted by the survival of an ancient rural way of life and traditional rituals. There, people still travelled by mule and, he said, slept in the barns with their animals (Stephens, p.117). The paintings produced in Italy and shortly afterwards focussed on the history of the area and what Lanyon described as the 'excremental' way of life (quoted in Stephens, p.119). He was also especially struck by his observation of the landscape's transformation during spring.
For Lanyon, drawings were both independent objects and part of his process of gathering information for a painting. Anticoli Hills may have been part of the informing process that led to the important painting Saracinesco 1954 (Bristol City Art Gallery), which was named after a small village above Anticoli. A direct visual link is not evident, but Saracinesco is dominated by a white oval form which derived from the old town walls; the wall that passes across the foreground of the drawing may be compared with that device. The style of this drawing is typical: Lanyon's confident, vigorous line suggests the appearance of the place while conveying the artist's enthusiasm for it; the subject is both defined and partially obscured by his use of tonal gradation. The degree of abstraction gives the landscape an ambiguity, perhaps a certain anthropomorphic quality. Lanyon was an admirer of Henry Moore (1898-1986), whose sculptures combining the reclining female figure with the landscape may have provided a source.
Andrew Causey, Peter Lanyon: Paintings, Drawings and Constructions 1937-64, exhibition catalogue, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester 1978
Margaret Garlake, Peter Lanyon, London 1998
Chris Stephens, Peter Lanyon: At the Edge of Landscape, London 2000