Ceri Richards

Blossoms

1940

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 508 x 610 mm
frame: 532 x 635 x 41 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1942
Reference
N05354

Display caption

Although Richards’ painting of aerial bombardment was made during the Second World War, it refers back to Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia in 1935.It was inspired by a florid description of the bombing campaign written by the Italian airman Count Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law. Describing his series of paintings on the theme, Richards commented:‘These paintings, obscurely maybe, make flowers into explosions or vice versa, aeroplanes look like aggressive plants, and an incendiary sun rises over the landscape’

Gallery label, November 2006

Catalogue entry

N05354 BLOSSOMS 1940

Inscr. ‘Ceri Richards 1940’ b.r., ‘Ceri Richards “Blossoms” 1940’ along strip of turned-over canvas at bottom edge of picture, and ‘Ceri Richards’ on back of canvas.
Canvas, 20×24 (51×61).
Purchased from the Leger Gallery (Knapping Fund) 1942.
Exh: Leger Gallery, February–March 1942 (7).
Lit: J. R. Webster, ‘Ceri Richards’ in exh. cat. Ceri Richards, Royal National Eisteddford of Wales, 1961, n.p., repr. pl.8.
Repr: Robin Ironside, Painting since 1939, 1947, facing p.24.

The artist said that this picture was one of a small group done during the first year or two of the Second World War. ‘I remember the impression made on me when I read a description (brutally factual but observant) by a well-known Italian airman [Count Ciano] about an air attack on Abyssinians during that unprovoked war, and the title “Target Blossom” stems from these impressions and later ones, when air bombardments broke out in earnest. These paintings, obscurely maybe, make flowers into explosions or vice versa, aeroplanes look like aggressive plants, and an incendiary sun rises over the landscape’ (letter of 30 November 1958).

Although this painting was only entitled ‘Blossoms’ in the Leger Gallery exhibition of 1942, two related works, an oil and a drawing (Nos.17 and 2 in the catalogue) were given the more explicit titles of ‘Target Blossom’ (1940) and ‘Target Blossom (No.2)’ (1941) respectively. Others were entitled ‘Incendiaries in a Landscape’ and ‘Explosive Plant’. Elements of partially transformed aeroplanes, flowers and exploding bombs are all present in this work.

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