In 1920 Cedric Morris moved from Cornwall to Paris. There he and his partner, the painter Arthur Lett-Haines (1894-1978), became part of the artistic milieu in Montparnasse which included Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), Man Ray (1890-1976) and the collector, Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979). They used Paras a base, travelling extensively around the rest of the country and beyond. In May 1923 they moved to Céret near the Pyrénées in the south-west of France. In the early part of the century Céret had been visited by many artists including Braque (1882-1963), Picasso (1881-1973), Gris (1887-1927) and Chagall (1887-1985). Morris and Lett-Haines stayed here for several months, during which time Morris painted a portrait of the English artist, John Banting (1902-71), and a number of landscapes, including three views of the twin bridges.

Despite his contact with the avant-garde, Morris based his landscape paintings on direct observation of nature. At this time he remarked that he liked to go to the French countryside and 'meander about slowly, watching things move, a ladybird on a leaf, someone rubbing lavender into a basket' (Morphet, p.28). Morris uses characteristically strong colours and bold forms in his landscapes. In addition he textures the surface with a thick impasto which animates the canvas. This is especially evident in the rough surface of the river and prickly vegetation in the foreground of the painting. Morris's preoccupation with forms and shapes anticipates the brief period in which he was to experiment with abstraction. In 1923, the same year as this painting, he was working on Experiment in Textures (Tate T06970). Although this work appears to be a radical departure from Les Ponts de Céret, Morphet suggests that it shares affinities with his landscape compositions. He remarks that in this abstract composition, 'there is a strong analogy with forms of nature, and a latent sense of natural forces' (Morphet, p.28).

Further reading:
Richard Morphet, Cedric Morris, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1984

Heather Birchall
January 2002