Following the opening of an exhibition at Tate Britain spanning Patrick Caulfield’s innovative approach to painting over forty years, Assistant Curator Melissa Blanchflower introduces the celebrated British painter’s final work
Braque Curtain is Patrick Caulfield’s final painting, completed just two weeks before his death in 2005 and it is the first time this particular work has been on display.
This small-scale painting focuses on an interior with a curtain and a lamp set on a ledge above an alcove. The decorative motif on the cream and yellow curtain quotes the patterned wallpaper in Georges Braque’s painting The Duet 1937 (in the Musée National d’ Art Moderne, Paris collection), a reproduction of which was found in Caulfield’s studio. Throughout his career Caulfield reinvigorated the traditional genres of the still life and interior. He saw himself as an inheritor of painting traditions from Modern European masters particularly associated with Cubism, and this work pays a lasting homage to Braque. It also chimes with Portrait of Juan Gris 1963, the early iconic painting seen in the first room of the exhibition, which depicts another artist Caulfield greatly admired.
Caulfield used light and shadow in his paintings as a means to suggest human presence in otherwise unpopulated interiors and spaces. Here the transition of light and time – revealed in the play of natural light glowing through the bright curtain and the duality of a dark lamp eclipsing or casting a silhouette against an orange lamp – suggest mortality is a subject at the heart of the painting. In his later work his understanding of how light defines space, colour and suggests depth allowed for a more sculptural interpretation of pictorial space. Caulfield sought to describe the world in which he lived and he painted the everyday with a rare clarity of vision.
Patrick Caulfield is on display at Tate Britain until 1 September 2013. The exhibition runs in parallel to an exhibition of works by contemporary artist, Gary Hume (born 1962), offering you the chance to see alongside each other two complementary British painters from different generations with one ticket
Braque Curtain was purchased with assistance from Tate Members in 2010