Peter Kinley

Large House with Two Gables


Not on display

Peter Kinley 1926–1988
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1932 × 2780 mm
Purchased 1995


This large rectangular painting by the British artist Peter Kinley consists of simple geometric forms rendered in block colours. In the centre of the painting is a thin square frame delineated in black paint that is mostly occupied by a white rectangle topped by two equilateral triangles on either end of its upper edge, possibly representing the ‘house with two gables’ of the work’s title. The remainder of the square, above the white form, is filled in with blue paint, perhaps indicating an area of sky. The rest of the canvas is painted in an iridescent gold colour that reflects the light as the viewer moves around the painting in the gallery. Although the shapes in the work are presented in neat blocks, the painting’s brushstrokes are visible across its surface, and in some places – such as the white area in the middle – other colours, including yellow, green and blue, can be seen through the top layer of the paint.

Large House with Two Gables was created in 1980 in Kinley’s Wiltshire studio and is a larger version of the similar, slightly earlier work House with Two Gables 1979–80. To create Large House with Two Gables Kinley painted layers of various colours onto the canvas before adding the final application of white, blue and gold to the surface using expressive brushstrokes. The painting’s title indicates that the geometric forms are representations of a gabled house, and this has been identified as the Wiltshire home of Kinley’s friend Charles Ewart (see Kinley and Livingstone 2010, p.66). While the word ‘large’ distinguishes this painting from the earlier, smaller version, Kinley may also have chosen to use it as a descriptive term to refer to the size of his friend’s house.

Kinley’s Large House with Two Gables is one of several paintings he created between 1971 and 1981 that reflect his experience of living in the English countryside during that time. As Kinley stated in 1986:

It meant many new experiences – I had not previously lived in the country … I was now in an intimate relationship with nature … The paintings are the result of my attempt to transform the experience (observation or memory) into an image, which represents that experience. It is not a question of abstraction or of simplification, but of transformation, or re-creation.
(Quoted in Kinley and Livingstone 2010, p.101.)

The art historian Marco Livingstone has suggested that this painting’s textured gold background ‘produces a strong sensation of traversing a landscape’ and therefore reflects the physical experience of a long countryside walk (Kinley and Livingstone 2010, p.70). Moreover, Kinley’s depiction of a single house set amid a plain, empty background could allude to the countryside’s vast open expanses and the way in which they are occasionally punctuated with human habitation.

Large House with Two Gables was painted more than a decade after Kinley’s change of style in 1965. Prior to that year, his work had mainly consisted of abstract landscape and figure paintings that were heavily influenced by the French painter, illustrator and textile artist Nicolas de Staël (1914–1955). In 1965 Kinley chose to distance himself from his earlier work and paint fuller geometric forms that functioned as recognisable symbols of everyday objects and structures, thus synthesising the abstract and the figurative elements (see Museum of Modern Art, Oxford 1982, pp.3–6). The art historian Norbert Lynton has argued that memory plays an important role in this process, observing that Large House with Two Gables presents

loaded images that burrow into the memory, as though more remembered via the paintings than encountered in them … Kinley’s images are often weighty beyond reason. They seem … lyrical, but turn into epics. Kinley seems to know the hieroglyph by … which memory holds images.
(Museum of Modern Art, Oxford 1982, pp.24–5.)

Further reading
Peter Kinley: Paintings 1956–1982, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, Oxford 1982, reproduced pp.2, 27.
Modern British Art, exhibition catalogue, Offer Waterman and Co., London 2001.
Catherine Kinley and Marco Livingstone, Peter Kinley, Farnham 2010, pp.70–3, reproduced p.70.

Michal Goldschmidt
November 2014

Supported by Christie’s.

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