Peter Lanyon 1918–1964
T00950 Porthleven Boats 1950–51
Construction of oil paint on wood and sheet metal, 24¾ x 14¿ x 16½ (70 x 36 x 42).
Presented by the artist’s widow 1967.
Exh: Tate Gallery, May–June 1968 (20) and subsequent tour to Plymouth, Newcastle, Birmingham and Liverpool.
This is one of five constructions made by the artist preparatory to painting his large picture ‘Porthleven’, 1951, which has been in the Tate since 1953 (N06151). He said that he did not regard these constructions as complete things in themselves but as experiments in space to establish the illusion and the content of the space in the painting. At the time of the ‘Porthleven’ painting he had not evolved a way of developing an image in his mind and had to explore it in actual space before painting it.
This particular construction was apparently a study for the boat-like shapes at the bottom of the picture. Referring to ‘Porthleven’ in a talk on his work recorded for the British Council in 1963, Lanyon explained that The water runs right down the middle of the picture, which is rather like an aerial view.... There are some frontal planes, but down at the bottom are a number of shapes which roll and pitch – like boats around the inner harbour’. There is another construction in painted wood and plastic, known as ‘Tall Country and Seashore’, which is concerned with the vertical structure of the motif (no. 19 in the Memorial Exhibition referred to above), as well as a rocking mobile in brass, related to the waves, which was exhibited and sold by Gimpel Fils in 1954. The other two constructions, which appear from photographs to have been in painted wood, were subsequently destroyed by the artist or broken up to make other works.
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1967–1968, London 1968.