Peter Coker

The Gorse Bush


Not on display

Peter Coker 1926–2004
Oil paint on board
Support: 1452 × 1213 mm
Presented by the artist in memory of his son Nicholas Coker 1985

Display caption

This is one of a number of paintings the artist made from drawings after visiting Audierne in Brittany in 1957. Apart from the gorse, he made notes and drawings of a lighthouse, the sea, fields, stone-walls and vegetable plots. The paintings were exhibited the same year in his second one-man exhibition at the Zwemmer Galleries. The companion work to this painting is 'Bracken and Gorse' belonging to Birmingham City Art Gallery. As in 'Man Carrying a Pig' 1955 which is also in the Tate's collection, Coker used board as his support, modelling his forms in thick paint. He has compared the texture of the tangled mass of twigs and branches in this painting to his encrusted surfaces of previous years.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Peter Coker born 1926

T04113 The Gorse Bush 1957

Oil on board 1452 x 1213 (57 1/4 x 47 3/4)
Inscribed ‘Peter Coker' b.r. and ‘1957' on back of board t.r.
Presented by the artist in memory of his son Nicholas Coker 1985
Exh: Peter Coker, Zwemmer Gallery, Oct.-Nov. 1957 (5); RA 1961 (460); Peter Coker, Thackeray Gallery, March 1970 (12); The Essex R.A's, Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, Aug.-Sept. 1972 (no number); RA 1973 (524); Works by Peter Coker, R.A., Chelmsford and Essex Museum, Chelmsford, June-July 1978 (7)
Lit: Michael Chase, ‘Peter Coker', Studio, vol. 160, Dec. 1960, pp.214-7, repr. as ‘Bracken Bush'.

The artist wrote to the Tate Gallery about this painting on 19 May 1986:

The Gorse Bush, Audierne was one of a number of paintings I made from drawings after visiting Audierne in 1957 which were all exhibited in my second one man exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery, 26 Litchfield Street, London in 1957 (the gallery was in the side street next to Zwemmer's Bookshop in Charing Cross Road).

During the mid 50s I visited France regularly (the gaps between part-time teaching at St. Martin's School of Art allowing). Audierne resulted from a visit to Quimper during Easter 1957. Why Quimper? It was a photograph I saw in a book on Medieval France of the 11th Century Romanesque Church of Notre Dame De Locmaria that caught my attention and stimulated my interest. Quimper was not to my liking, so I moved to the coast, making notes and drawings of the lighthouse, the sea, coastal fields, stonewalls, cabbage plots and close-ups of gorse and bracken bushes. Everything happened at eye level, the fields were separated from the shore by stone walls some four feet above the water line. It was a very happy and productive time for me and as a family we visited Audierne on a number of occasions afterwards with great enthusiasm.

The Gorse Bush was a companion work to the Bracken and Gorse purchased by the Friends of Birmingham City Art Gallery in 1957, which Mr. Zwemmer had purchased from me earlier in the year. I well remember Dr. Mary Woodall and the Friends visiting my studio at Leytonstone and not being able to decide between the Bracken and Gorse and Sheep Carcasses on a Bench 1955 (now my Diploma Work at the RA) finally choosing Bracken and Gorse for its companionability. One of the working drawings for the Gorse Bush was purchased from the Magdalene Street Gallery, Cambridge at an exhibition of drawings of mine in 1968 by Malcolm Cormack the then Keeper of Paintings and Drawings at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

The Gorse Bush retains much of the characteristics of the Butcher Shop paintings of 1955. Board being used as a support allowing the paint to stand on the surface, thick paint modelling the form and solid white lead paste the main material applied to the colour. I had thought to remove three or four inches from the right side of the wall, to enclose the bush more, decided against it but failed to remove the pencil line from the painting where I intended to cut the board. The encrusted textured surfaces of the table tops and benches of previous years found their expression in the tangled mass of twigs and branches, trees and hedges, rocks and sea. Thirteen paintings and twelve drawings were exhibited in my second one-man show at Zwemmer's in October-November 1957, two thirds were Breton subjects, the exhibition was well received by the critics who in the main were relieved that the angry young painter of the butcher's shops had now passed on to less provocative subjects.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.127-8

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