Bryan Wynter

Mars Ascends


Not on display

Bryan Wynter 1915–1975
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1527 × 1013 mm
frame: 1542 × 1034 × 48 mm
Presented by Fello Atkinson 1981

Display caption

The title of this painting may refer to the rising dominance of the colour Mars red. However, the picture also reflects Wynter’s interest in organic processes and the collective unconscious.

For this painting Wynter applied each calligraphic mark in response to the preceding marks. This procedure was based on a scientific theory about the growth of organic forms. In theory, imposing an order derived from nature reduced the role of the artist’s ego in making a picture, and allowed the picture to grow naturally out of the artist’s subconscious.

Gallery label, September 2004

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

T03289 MARS ASCENDS 1956

Inscribed on stretcher ‘B. Wynter Mars Ascends’
Oil on canvas, 60×40 (152.5×100.8)
Presented by Fello Atkinson 1981
Prov: Purchased by Fello Atkinson through the Penwith Society Gallery 1957
Exh: New Paintings by Bryan Wynter, Redfern Gallery, March 1957 (22); New Exhibition, Penwith Society Gallery, St Ives, 1957 (2); Bryan Wynter 1915–1975, Hayward Gallery, August 1976 (21, repr.)

Bryan Wynter settled in Zennor, Cornwall in 1945 and for the next 10 years his paintings were figurative, reflecting the landscape of West Penwith. According to Patrick Heron (introduction to catalogue of the exhibition Bryan Wynter 1915–1975 at the Hayward Gallery, August 1976), Wynter's work became almost non-figurative from January or February 1956. Heron quotes from an article he wrote on Wynter's work of 1956 in Arts Magazine (New York), November 1956; each was like a ‘... grille, or network of brush signs (I think the word “brushstroke” no longer applies where the stroke is itself become the chief object in the picture) strings itself along either vertical or horizontal lines ... It is as though Wynter was looking into a system of hanging, semi-transparent bead-curtains, ranged one behind another.’

In a letter of 20 October 1982 Mrs Monica Wynter, the artist's widow, wrote of ‘Mars Ascends’: ‘It was painted at Zennor Carn in the somewhat dilapidated cowhouse he [Wynter] used as a studio there until he constructed the timber sectional studio during the following year.

'1956 was a very productive year for him. He had been able to give up teaching at the end of 1955 and to buy the cottage, Zennor Carn, which he had previously rented since the end of 1945. 1956 began for him with two or three months working in London in a loaned studio in the Boltons. He had felt a great “block” with his work in the previous few years-each painting was completed with great difficulty and little satisfaction. Now, with the stimulus of being in London, no more teaching and some relief from financial worries leading to a sense of freedom and optimism, he produced a series of paintings which seemed a breakthrough to him, the result of a release of creative energy, and paintings which no longer contained direct references to landscape or other subject matter.

'“Mars Ascending” was painted after his return to Zennor from London. He always kept several paintings “on the go” at once and any one painting might take several months to complete. As with all his paintings the title was given after the painting was finished.’

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

You might like