Not on display
- Paul Feiler 1918–2013
- Oil paint on board
- Support: 912 × 1223 mm
- Bequeathed by Anne Christopherson in memory of her husband John Christopherson 2013, accessioned 2017
Morvah 1958 is painted in oil on a landscape-format board. On a predominantly white ground, strokes of darker paint fan out vertically and diagonally, overset by six off-vertical slabs of black paint around the centre of the canvas and, to the right, two thinner slabs of black. Although abstract, the image alludes to the structure of a cliff side, identified by the painting’s title as relating to the Cornish coast, Morvah being a village on the Penwith peninsula near St Ives. Feiler’s early work – made between 1950 and 1956, in the years just prior to painting Morvah – declares a direct affinity with the painting of Paul Klee, Nicholas de Staël and William Scott. These are largely paintings of coastal and harbour scenes, flattened and viewed from above as if through a window – constructed of patches and, later, slabs of impastoed paint.
From 1957 this directly pictorial aspect of his painting started to fall away in favour of a single predominant image, rendered initially in a freer, expressive way. Morvah is characteristic of this decisive shift in Feiler’s work towards a more personal idiom and, like many paintings of this period, draws its source from the north coastline of West Penwith (virtually all of Feiler’s paintings between 1958 and 1964 are titled after places on the Cornish coast). Feiler had taught at Bristol School of Art since 1946, becoming its head of painting in 1963, and he divided his time between Bristol and a home in West Cornwall. Peter Lanyon (1918–1964) and Roger Hilton (1911–1975) were especially close friends and colleagues, and exercised an evident influence in the way that Feiler drew his abstracted subject matter from the impression of the landscape of Cornwall.
Morvah 1958 was the painting with which Feiler was represented in the landmark St Ives exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London in 1985 that reassessed the achievement of art in St Ives. The picture was acquired directly from the artist in 1958 by the painter John Christopherson (1921–1996) and remained in his collection until being acquired by Tate. Christopherson was well-known as a collector of work by his contemporaries, particularly of artists in St Ives in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The collection consisted largely of minor pieces by major British artists, such as Walter Sickert, Anthony Caro and Henry Moore, as well as major works by lesser artists.
Chris Stephens, April 2006
Updated by Andrew Wilson, August 2017
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