Peter Lanyon

Thermal

1960

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1829 x 1524 mm
frame: 1840 x 1535 x 52 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1960
Reference
T00375

Display caption

This painting is one of a series of works that were partly inspired by Lanyon's experience of gliding. Lanyon began gliding in 1959 and the sensation of flight added new dimensions to his landscape painting. He gained a much stronger feeling for the elements. He later explained: 'The air is a very definite world of activity as complex and demanding as the sea.. The thermal itself is a current of hot air rising and eventually condensing into cloud. It is invisible and can only be apprehended by an instrument such as a glider.. The basic source of all soaring flight is the thermal'.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

T00375 THERMAL 1960

Inscr. ‘Lanyon 60’ b.l. and on back ‘Thermal Lanyon 1960’.
Canvas, 72×60 (183×152·5).
Purchased from Gimpel Fils (Grant-in-Aid) 1960.
Exh: Gimpel Fils, October–November 1960 (7, repr. slightly cut at top and bottom).

To a suggestion that a number of the paintings included in the 1960 Gimpel Fils exhibition were partly inspired by the experience of gliding, the artist replied (28 November 1960): ‘The majority of paintings in the show came directly out of experience in fluids or in the air - i.e. water or weather conditions....

‘The experience in “Thermal” does not only refer to glider flight. It belongs to pictures which I have done before, e.g. “Bird-wind”, and which are concerned with birds describing the invisible, their flight across cliff faces and their soaring activity. I have discovered since I began gliding that the activity is more general than I had guessed. The air is a very definite world of activity as complex and demanding as the sea....

‘The thermal itself is a current of hot air rising and eventually condensing into cloud. It is invisible and can only be apprehended by an instrument such as a glider.... The basic source of all soaring flight is the thermal - hot air rising from the ground as a large bubble.

‘The picture refers to cloud formation and to a spiral rising activity which is the way a glider rises in an up-current. There is also a reference to storm conditions and down-currents. These are all things that arise in connection with thermals.’

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

Tate Etc.

Toby Treves on Peter Lanyon

In 1959 Peter Lanyon (1918–1964) learned to fly a glider, an activity that transformed his understanding of the air ...

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