The Gardens of Hammersmith No. 2 is related to the view from 16 Hammersmith Terrace, the house beside the Thames in London where Pasmore lived from 1942-7. It is considered to be the third in a series of four paintings taking this view as their subject matter: The Gardens of Hammersmith 1944 (private collection), The Hanging Gardens of Hammersmith No.1 1944-7 (private collection), The Gardens of Hammersmith No. 2 1949, and The Gardens of Hammersmith No. 3 1947-9 (private collection). Initially Pasmore considered The Hanging Gardens of Hammersmith No.1 and The Gardens of Hammersmith No. 2 as a discrete pair separate from a wider series. However, the retrospective numbering of the paintings suggests that he revised his opinion and decided to tie all four works into a series demonstrating a gradual progression towards abstraction.

The compositional relationship between The Gardens of Hammersmith No. 2 and The Hanging Gardens of Hammersmith No.1 is like that of a reflected image in as much as the arrangement of the gardens and river is more or less reversed. Indeed, the view depicted in The Gardens of Hammersmith No.2 did not exist in nature. In the context of 1949, a year after Pasmore's first abstract works and two years after he had left Hammersmith, this open reference to a previous painting suggests a hermetic practice removed from the plein air legacy of Impressionism. Though attuned to the Impressionists' attempt to create objective painting, he commented in a letter to Kenneth Clark in 1948 that he 'would like to produce impressionist pictures painted, like the Old Masters, in the studio.'

The painting is subdivided by diagonal lines drawn in charcoal or pencil and picked out in places with red paint. Several of these lines meet at a point one quarter of the way up the righthand edge, others half way up the lefthand side. The lines represent the division of the gardens and serve as compositional aids. The river border of the gardens is marked by a line running from a quarter of the way up the lefthand side to the middle of the righthand edge. The trees are also arranged geometrically. The trunk of the tree on the far left marks a line bisecting the centre of the top edge. The next tree denotes the golden section of the width of the painting, the third is exactly mid-way.

This precise composition is inscribed in pencil or charcoal on a painted white ground. The bushes have been drawn in charcoal, or possibly conté crayon, and rubbed into the ground to achieve the smudged effect visible through the coloured dots. The trees are rendered in tones of red-brown. In contrast to these pointillist and linear forms, the sky is painted with smooth modulations of white, pale blue and pink.

During the war, Pasmore had studied many of the Post-Impressionists' writings, and in the following years he worked through some of their ideas in his own paintings. The impact of Seurat's Pointillism is particularly evident here.

Further reading:

Alan Bowness and Luigi Lambertini, Victor Pasmore, with a Catalogue Raisonée of the Paintings, Constructions and Graphics 1926-1979, London 1980, reproduced p.79, cat.127
Bruce Laughton, The Euston Road School: A Study in Objective Painting, Aldershot 1986, reproduced p.293
Norbert Lynton, Victor Pasmore: Nature into Art, exhibition catalogue, Center for International Contemporary Arts, New York 1990, reproduced p.16, fig.3

Toby Treves
May 2000