Peter Lanyon

Porthleven

1951

Medium
Oil paint on board
Dimensions
Support: 2445 x 1219 mm
frame: 2538 x 1324 x 85 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1953
Reference
N06151

Display caption

This work exemplifies Lanyon’s idea of the ‘experiential landscape’, which involved approaching a place from different positions and combining these views with allusions to geology, history, culture and myth. Here he depicts the fishing port of Porthleven from several perspectives, revealing its two harbours and clock tower. Lanyon later identified a human presence in the work, reading the shape on the left as a fisherman with lamp and his wife wrapped in a shawl on the right. Influenced by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and his theories of the unconscious, the artist saw these as figures embodying the cultural identity of his home.

Gallery label, May 2007

Catalogue entry

N06151 PORTHLEVEN 1951
 
Inscr. ‘Peter Lanyon’ b.r. and on back ‘Porthleven Peter Lanyon 1951’.
Oil on hardboard, 96 1/4×48 (244·5×122).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1953.
Coll: Bought by the C.A.S. from the artist at Arts Council exhibition 1951.
Exh: Arts Council, 60 Paintings for' 51, and tour, 1951 (29, repr. pl.2).
Lit: A.D.B. Sylvester, ‘Big Pictures for the Festival’ in Burlington Magazine, XCIII, 1951, p.329; J. P. Hodin, ‘Peter Lanyon’ in XXe Siècle, n.s., XXV, No.22, Christmas 1963, pp.91–3, repr. p.91.
Repr: Art d'Aujourd' hui, IV, No.2, 1953, p.4; Patrick Heron, The Changing Forms of Art, 1955, pl.10.

Painted in 1951 for the Arts Council exhibition. The painting originally intended for this exhibition became so overloaded through repainting that the artist destroyed it and executed the present work in four hours. The idea was built up gradually with the help of five constructions, e.g. the metal mobile exhibited at Gimpel Fils in 1954 (30), used in the lower part of the picture and two constructions, of wood and glass and of wood and sheet metal, in the artist's possession. ‘My “constructions” are not complete things in themselves but are experiments in space to establish the illusion and the content of the space in the painting. At the time of the “Porthleven” I had not evolved a way of developing an image in my mind and had to explore it in actual space before painting it.’ Later the artist dispensed with actual constructions but still sees ‘the constructive process as a way of developing imagery’ which ‘is I believe the way in which abstract Art is becoming fuller and reaching a new content. For this I am entirely indebted to Gabo’ (letter from the artist, 6 September 1958; see also Patrick Heron, ‘Peter Lanyon’ in Arts, XXX, No.5, 1956, pp.33–7).

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