Graham Sutherland OM

Lord Goodman


Not on display

Graham Sutherland OM 1903–1980
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 959 × 959 mm
Presented anonymously through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1974

Display caption

At his death, Arnold Goodman was described as 'for many years... Britain's most distinguished citizen outside government'. As a lawyer, his work on high-profile libel cases drew him into the affairs of state. In 1965 he was appointed chairman of the Arts Council and made a life peer. This portrait was painted over at least two series of sittings, at Sutherland's house in the South of France. At this late stage in his career, Sutherland was applying paint with great fluency, but extremely thinly, over his characteristic grid of pencil lines.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Graham Sutherland 1903-80

Lord Goodman 1973-4


Oil on canvas 996 x 959 (39 1/4 x 37 3/4)

Presented anonymously through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1974

Commissioned by the anonymous donor

Portraits by Graham Sutherland, National Portrait Gallery, London, June-Oct. 1977 (97, repr.)
Graham Sutherland, Tate Gallery, London, May-July 1982 (190, repr.)
Graham Sutherland, Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt, Aug.-Sept. 1982 (244, repr. p.213)
Loan to The Graham Sutherland Gallery, Picton Castle, Haverfordwest May-Oct. 1984

‘Londoner’s Diary: Lord Goodman’s portrait by Sutherland’, Evening Standard, 27 April 1973
Keith Roberts, ‘Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions, London: Marlborough Gallery, Sutherland Sketchbooks and Related Paintings’, Burlington Magazine, vol.116, no.856, July 1974, p.425
William Feaver, ‘Sutherland’s Lawyer’, Sunday Times Magazine, 14 July 1974, p.28, repr. in col. p.29
John Sunderland, Painting in Britain 1525-1975, Oxford 1976, p.245, pl.218
Keith Roberts, ‘Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions’, Burlington Magazine, vol.119, no.893, Aug. 1977, p.583
Peter Fuller, ‘Portraits by Graham Sutherland’, Connoisseur, vol.196, Oct. 1977, pp.146-7, repr. p.148
Malcolm Quantrill, ‘London Letter’, Art International, vol. 21, no.4, July-Aug. 1977, p.72
Tate Gallery Aquisitions 1974-6, London 1978, pp.154-6
John Hayes, The Art of Graham Sutherland, Oxford 1980, p.172, repr. p.173, no.153
‘Obituary’, Times, 18 Feb. 1980, p.14
Roger Berthoud, ‘Portait of a Man and his Courage’, Times, 20 Feb. 1980, p.14
Roger Berthoud, Graham Sutherland: A Biography, London 1982, pp.284-5, repr. between pp.256 and 257
Danny Halperin, ‘The Faces which Measure our Time’, Sunday Telegraph, 18 April 1982, p.68, repr. (col.)
Giorgio Soavi, ‘Inglese gentleman artista’, Bolaffiarte, vol.12, no.119, May 1982, p.112
Richard Holmes, ‘A Very Private Artist and his Mystery’, Times, 20 May 1982, p.12
John Spurling, ‘A Man Required to Fill a Place’, New Statesman and Nation, 28 May 1982, p.27
Arthur Marshall, ‘Fuel for the Aga’, Spectator, 29 May 1982, p.25
Geoffrey Grigson, ‘Grand Names’, Guardian, 3 June 1982, p.9
Roger Berthoud, ‘The Un-Britishness of Ambitious Art’, Alliance Review, July 1982, p.30, repr.
‘That Painting Would Have Been Fantastic’, Western Mail, 2 April 1994

M[arina] Vi[gnozzi], ‘Lord Goodman’, Sutherland Ritratti, exh. cat., Palazzo Sarcinelli Galleria Comunale d’arte, Conegliano 1996, p.210

‘Say Goodbye to Painful Constipation’, Private Eye, 26 July 1974 (detail with addition)
‘Acquisitions of Modern Art by Museums’, Burlington Magazine, vol.117, no.866, May 1975, p.329
Rosalind Thuiller, ‘Graham Sutherland Portraits’, Arts Review, vol.29, no.13, 24 June 1977, p.418
Louise Collis, ‘Graham Sutherland’, Art and Artists, vol.12, no.5, Sept. 1977, p.32
Rosalind Thuiller, Graham Sutherland: Inspirations, Guildford 1982, p.97, pl.96
Mary Rose Beaumont, ‘Tattoo Gallery: Graham Sutherland’, Arts Review, vol.34, no.12, 4 June 1982, p.298
‘Tate Gallery Exhibition’, Goya, nos.169-171, July-Dec. 1982
Maureen Beasley, Five Centuries of Artists in Sutton: A Biographical Dictionary of Artists Associated with Sutton, London, Sutton 1989, p.117

It has been said that Arnold Goodman was ‘for many years ... Britain’s most distinguished citizen outside government’.[1] Born in London in 1913 he was a solicitor (senior partner of Goodman, Derrick. & Co. 1954-95) whose work on high- profile libel cases drew him into the affairs of state. During the 1950s and 1960s he was an advisor to several senior members of the Labour Party, the party itself and to Prime Minister Harold Wilson after his election in 1963. In 1965 Goodman was appointed Chairman of the Arts Council and made a life peer: Baron Goodman of the City of Westminster. His reputation was as a negotiator and he took an active role in various political, industrial and legal disputes, most notably in discussions around Rhodesia’s Unofficial Declaration of Independence and the 1978 Middle East peace talks. He left the Arts Council chair in 1972, at which time he was made a Companion of Honour, but pursued many activities in the media and the arts, especially theatre: his many chairmanships included The Observer newspaper, the Newspapers Publishers Association, the Jewish Chronicle Trust, the Royal Opera House, the Royal Shakespeare Company and English National Opera. He was Master of University College, Oxford from 1976 to 1986. Having marked his eightieth birthday with the publication of his autobiography, Tell Them I’m on my Way (1993), he died on12 May 1995.

This portrait, which has been seen as one of Sutherland’s finest, was commissioned by the anonymous donor about a year before work began on it in the first half of 1973. The artist recalled that it was based on ‘two lots of sittings, both at my house here [at Menton in the south France] ... each series of sittings was for about one hour a day for about four days’.[2] An earlier Tate catalogue entry said these were in April and May 1973,[3] though it appears that Goodman went for a final session during a week-end in late October, flying back the same day.[4]

The artist wrote of these sittings: ‘I made, as is my practice, a number of sketchbook drawings from life, that is to say preparatory drawings, some of which were worked up from memory. I also made several preparatory oil studies and one finished oil study which Lord Goodman personally acquired’.[5] In fact the term ‘study’ is rather deceptive as he worked simultaneously on at least six canvases, all of the same size. Of these he completed the two which he ‘chose as being the least repulsive’.[6] The first of these may be seen as the definitive version and was delivered to Goodman before being sent to the Tate. The second was worked on later and acquired by the sitter;[7] it hung in Goodman’s lodgings when he was Master of University College, Oxford (1976-86) and was subsequently acquired by the college. Though the artist said he destroyed further studies, four unfinished oil studies remain in the his estate and were shown at Conegliano in 1996.[8] What appears to be another full-size oil study is partially visible in photographs taken of the sittings by Erich Auerbach.[9] Though largely covered by a sheet of paper, one can see that it shows the sitter with his right hand clasping the left, as he does in two of the unfinished studies, but the reverse to how the hands appear in both the Tate and Goodman versions. A further, smaller oil study (432 x 450 mm) was sold in London in 1995.[10]

When the Tate’s portrait was actually completed is a little unclear. Auerbach, who attended the sittings at Goodman’s behest, recalled that at the time of the October 1973 session it was ‘far from finished’.[11] On 15 November that year the artist wrote to the Tate’s director Norman Reid ‘I have found it not a very easy assignment to undertake. However now at last I seem to be getting near really what I want to do and I hope very much that it will be possible for me to bring it with me to England [on 12 December]’.[12] Reid saw the painting in the Kings Road studio of Alfred Hecht, Sutherland’s framer, in December; eighteen months later he believed that, but for the frame, it had been complete at that time. This contradicted a letter to the Tate from the donor’s agent in April 1974 saying that it was only then ‘virtually finished’. It may be that, though Sutherland made some adjustments to the portrait that spring, it had been complete enough in December 1973 to seem unchanged when it was finally acquired by the gallery the following May. The work is thus dated to both years.

Auerbach’s photographs (one of which was published in 1974 and another reproduced in the catalogue of Sutherland’s 1982 retrospective)[13] show that the artist positioned Lord Goodman with a red painted canvas behind him. The strongly coloured background in the portrait is, therefore, a fairly accurate representation of the scene and Sutherland explained that he chose it as it ‘brought out the pallor of his face’.[14] Goodman is also seen to be raised on a platform and the artist again explained that, as he always drew sitting down and painted standing up, it was necessary to raise the sitter so that he was painted from the same angle as he had been sketched. In response to a question, he added that ‘physically the sitter did not prove difficult in compositional terms, his large bulk making a compact monolithic form’.[15] The choice of a square canvas - not unusual in Sutherland’s work of that period - emphasises the subject’s dominating presence by allowing his body to fill its width.

The work was painted in a manner consistent with Sutherland’s later pictures. It is painted on the reverse of an oil-primed linen canvas, the background having been applied as a single, thin layer, almost a stain. Though the figure is more heavily painted, with some isolated impasto, it too is generally thinly worked. A pencil grid, which is still largely visible, was used to secure its positioning and composition and part of a sequence of numbers pertaining to it can be seen at shoulder level. The evident use of such a grid was a characteristic of all of Sutherland’s paintings before the 1950s and, though it became less prevalent, it was far from unusual in such late works as this. In contrast, a comparison with earlier paintings and, most particularly, with the 1949 portrait of Somerset Maugham (Tate Gallery N06034) reveals how the artist’s use of paint had gained in fluency. Whereas the handling in Lord Goodman is thin, in the earlier work the background is heavy, having been built up in layers of different tones. Similarly, in the late portrait compositional devices (such as the two vertical lines and the dado-like horizontal) are kept to a minimum, being effective in their brevity.

By the 1970s Sutherland’s historical position and critical reputation were uncertain and this was, in part at least, due to his portraits. After Somerset Maugham - his first - he produced over fifty, usually of leading European businessmen and aristocrats, and so became associated with a traditional field of artistic production and a particular social set. Lord Goodman might be seen, like earlier commissions for portraits of Sir Winston Churchill, the West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the Queen Mother, as a reflection of the artist’s status as an unofficial state portrait painter; a description, perhaps, supported by his receiving of the Order of Merit in 1960. Such an identity sat awkwardly with his earlier presentation as a painter whose work fused an English landscape tradition with the vocabularies and concerns of modernism.

Chris Stephens
November 1998

[1] ‘Obituary’, Independent 15 May 1995, p.14
[2] Letter to Tate Gallery, 4 June 1975, Tate Gallery cataloguing files
[3] Tate Gallery Aquisitions 1974-6, London 1978, p.155
[4] Notes of an interview with [?] the photographer Erich Auerbach, nd, Tate Gallery cataloguing files
[5] Letter 4 June 1975
[6] Letter to Tate Gallery, 16 Feb. 1976, Tate Gallery cataloguing files
[7] Letter to Tate Gallery, 16 Feb. 1976, Tate Gallery cataloguing files
[8] Lord Goodman: Composition study 1973; Lord Goodman: Study for definitive portrait I 1973; Lord Goodman: Study for definitive portrait II; Lord Goodman: Study for definitive portrait III, repr. Sutherland Ritratti, exh. cat., Palazzo Sarcinelli Galleria Comunale d’arte, Conegliano 1996, pp.214-17 (col.)
[9] Colour slide, Tate Gallery cataloguing files
[10] Post-War and Contemporary British Art, Christie’s, London, 26 May 1995, lot 34, repr.
[11] Notes of an interview with [?]Auerbach
[12] Letter to Norman Reid, 15 Nov. 1973, Tate Gallery acquisitions files
[13] William Feaver, ‘Sutherland’s Lawyer’, Sunday Times Magazine, 14 July 1974, p.29 (col.); Ronald Alley, Graham Sutherland, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London 1982, p.8
[14] Letter 4 June 1975
[15] Ibid.

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