Exhibition catalogue text

Catalogue entry from John Wells: The Fragile Cell

31 Sea Bird Forms 1951
Oil on board 43.2 x 49.5
Tate Gallery

Like Aspiring Forms [Tate Gallery T02231], Sea Bird Forms was inspired by Wells's interest in the flight of birds: both their movement through space and the colours of their plumage. The horizontal format is unusual for such subject matter and the artist appears to have relied on systems of geometrical proportion as a basis for the composition to a greater extent than in his larger upright compositions. Pencil marks are still visible indicating where he applied the Golden Section. Some of these marks appear over the paint layer showing that he continued to use them while in the process of painting. The largely muted palette, which is punctuated with small areas of pure colour, reflects the description Wells once gave of Cornwall: 'its real colour is grey, out of that these colours glow from inside' (TGA 251AB).

Published in: Matthew Rowe, John Wells: The Fragile Cell, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, St Ives 1998, p.31, reproduced in colour p.31 and front cover