Sir Matthew Smith

Cornish Church


Not on display

Sir Matthew Smith 1879–1959
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 533 × 648 mm
frame: 735 × 845 × 100
Purchased 1949

Display caption

After a period of prolonged illness Smith spent the autumn and winter of 1920 in the village of St Columb Major in Cornwall. Here he completed a number of landscapes, and this is the view from the window of his room. The intense colours and black sky are reminiscent of the Brücke group of German Expressionist painters, but Smith denied a connection, and felt himself to be closer to French art. In Paris in 1919 he knew well the Irish painter Roderic O'Conor, who like Smith had belonged to Gauguin's circle in Brittany. Smith saw his landscapes and nudes, in which he used radiant colour in a similar constructional way.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Inscr. ‘MS 20’ t.r. and ‘1920’ on back of canvas.
Canvas, 21×25 1/2 (53·5×64·5).
Purchased from the Mayor Gallery (Knapping Fund) 1949.
Coll: Purchased from the artist by T. W. Earp, who afterwards sold it to F. Mayor c. 1947.
Exh: Tate Gallery, September–October 1953 (11, repr. pl.7), and Arts Council tour, November 1953–February 1954 (9); R.A., October–December 1960 (31).
Repr: Hendy, Halliday and Russell, 1962, pl.15 (in colour); John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1962, p.257.

Painted while the artist was living at St Columb Major, Cornwall, between June and December 1920, the composition shows a view of the parish church seen from an upstairs window of the house in which the artist was staying. It is one of several Cornish landscapes painted in a predominantly purple, green and dark red palette which seems to reflect the artist's anxious pessimism at this time.

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

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