Merlyn Oliver Evans

Souvenir of Suez


Not on display

Merlyn Oliver Evans 1910–1973
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 737 × 1270 mm
frame: 970 × 1500 × 72 mm
Purchased 1953

Catalogue entry

N06147 SOUVENIR OF SUEZ 1950–3
Inscr. ‘Evans 52.’ b.l.
Canvas, 29×50 (74×127).
Purchased from the Leicester Galleries (Knapping Fund) 1953.
Exh: Leicester Galleries, March 1953 (14).
Repr: Exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery, October–November 1956, pl.15 (not exhibited).

Painted between 1950 and 1953, not on the site but from memories of Suez gained by the artist during his war service with the 8th Army in the Middle East during the 1939–45 war. A compositional study for the painting belongs to the artist.

Two related paintings entitled ‘Wharfside Construction’, painted in 1953 and suggested by the dockside at Southwark, were exhibited at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, October–November 1956 (55, repr. pl.14, and 56). The hooked forms of cranes figure in earlier compositions, as in ‘Conquest of Time’, 1934 (8). In the notes supplied for the catalogue the artist wrote: ‘Earlier, when I was about fifteen and living in Glasgow and wandering about in the shipbuilding yards, I was continually absorbed by the shapes of boats and the stages through which these boats were carried to the perfect functional shape. Conscious of their fitness for purpose, I saw that they were beautiful in themselves and in that sense were like the shapes found in nature. But at the same time I realized that the shapes could take on an emotional quality which might convey elegance or heaviness, a menacing brutality or a sense of refinement or repose. Derricks and cranes, and dock-side machinery, had a fierce, heavy-sometimes predatory-feeling; whereas the forms of human beings, certain birds, yachts and gliders had a light, resilient, graceful character. I do not mean that I saw all these things as personages with quasi-human attributes. The emotional qualities were in the shapes themselves.’

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

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