Peter Lanyon

Zennor Storm


In Tate Britain

Peter Lanyon 1918–1964
Oil paint on board
Support: 1219 × 1829 mm
Presented by Catherine Viviano 1981

Display caption

Peter Lanyon is often seen as the leading British abstract expressionist. Unlike many of his colleagues, however, he always sought to stress the fact that his paintings derived from landscapes. He painted places or, as here, the experience of being in a particular place in certain conditions. So, he used his paint to evoke the experience of being in a storm near the Cornish village of Zennor, which sits between the high moorland and the sea-cliffs.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

T03209 ZENNOR STORM 1958

Inscribed ‘Lanyon 58’ right of centre towards bottom edge
Oil on hardboard, 48 × 72 (121.9 × 182.8)
Presented by Catherine Viviano 1981
Prov: Catherine Viviano (purchased from the artist)
Exh: Peter Lanyon, Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York, January–February 1959 (9); Peter Lanyon, Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio, March 1963 (no catalogue)
Lit: Andrew Causey, Peter Lanyon: His Painting, Henley-on-Thames 1971, no.122, p.58

In a letter to the compiler of 12 January 1983 Mrs Sheila Lanyon, the artist's widow, wrote that Peter Lanyon painted ‘Zennor Storm’ in his studio, which was the garage of ‘Little Park Owles’ where he and his family lived at Carbis Bay, St Ives, Cornwall. Sheila Lanyon suggested that the picture might be of a storm over Carn Galver (sometimes called Carn Galva), a hill near Zennor (a village about 4 miles west of St Ives) and that probably no studies were made for the painting, the only one Lanyon did of a storm. He had painted Carn Galver before, in 1937 (oil on wood panel 13 × 16 inches, in her collection).

In an article in The Cornish Review, no.4, Spring 1950, p.42, entitled ‘The Face of Penwith’, Peter Lanyon wrote: ‘On carns of Zennor, Hannibal and Galva, where giants may have hurled their googlies in mild recreation, an outline of earthwork makes evidence for a primitive brotherhood of man, of the great and small in life and death wherein animal joy and terror found resolution in the protective care of monolith and fort. Hereabouts, perhaps, the sun set westwards, shifting down the monolith to bury the light of primitive fire, and rose again in the hearts of men from the east. The saints were in Cornwall’.

Later, in a recorded talk ‘Landscape, Coast Journey and Painting’ dating from 1959, the year after painting ‘Zennor Storm’, he added: ‘Some years ago, I wrote about a journey from St Ives going west towards St Just and about the fishing and mining trade, and I wrote about the primitive in Cornwall and the saints. This was published by Denys Val Baker in The Cornish Review. When I read it today it is like a prophecy of my own journey in my own painting.

'Since 1945, my journey has been along this strip, and where ever I have been in the world it is these few miles which I have inhabited.’

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984

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