Summary

During December 1920 Cedric Morris and his partner Arthur Lett-Haines left England for continental Europe. During the next six years they travelled extensively and became acquainted with various strands of the European avant-garde. In November 1922 their work was included in a group exhibition at the Casa d'Arte Bragaglia, Rome, run by Anton Giulio Bragaglia (1890-1960). For Bragaglia, an important figure in the development of Futurist Photodynamism, the purpose of art was to achieve not the precise record of physical appearance but the dynamic synthesis of abstract and natural forms. In part these interests seem to be reflected in Experiments in Texture, in which geometric dynamism is allied with biomorphic form to convey a sense of the natural forces of growth and energy.

In June 1924, the Arts League of Service exhibited Morris's work in a group show at 60 Gower Street, London. Among his forty-four paintings were ten abstract works, of which Experiments in Texture may have been one. In an interview with Ana M Berry for the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, 17 August 1924, Morris expanded on his views about abstraction: 'Every picture is an abstraction whether it represents the objects of the external world or not. A portrait, just as a landscape, is simply an arrangement of forms, lines and planes. In a good painting the lines and planes are related in this way. Therefore it is impossible to copy nature in a photographic way. We have to reconstruct it, and to make a composition of an organised and vital drawing. To do this it is essential to give the forms the maximum expression, to discover the lines that can sustain the rhythm and the plastic relations so that they can give the best sensation of mass, volume and textures that correspond to the very things one is trying to represent. In abstraction one exercises these essential points of the pictorial language' (quoted in Morphet, p.92). Thus Experiments in Texture, in which a range of textures and colours radiate out from the central passage of thick, heavily worked impasto, may be construed as an exercise exploring the vocabulary of texture and colour.

The textural variety contained in Morris's paintings was admired by at least one reviewer of the Rome exhibition who had written, 'the light dances among the waves of paint, flickering brightly, so the whole work takes on the appearance of a mosaic, tapestry or precious enamel' (quoted in Morphet, p.29). It was also appreciated by the critic R H Wilenski, who, in his essay for the Arts League of Service exhibition, commented that, 'The artist's preoccupation with the surface of his pictures is readily apparent and shows the true craftsman's feeling for definite and ordered texture.' (Arts League Exhibition, unpaginated).

On his return to England in 1927, Morris moved away from abstraction. Nonetheless, his paintings continued to explore the same technical issues that he had outlined in his interview with Berry in 1924.

Further reading:
The Arts League of Service exhibition: Stoneware Pottery by W.S.Murray, Paintings & Drawings by Cedric Morris, exhibition catalogue, Arts League of Service, London 1924
Richard Morphet, Cedric Morris, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1984, reproduced p.27, cat.no.16 (colour)

Toby Treves
November 2000