Exhibition Preview: Spirit of Place: Sutherland and the Romantic Landscape, Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre, Pembrokeshire, until July 8 2013
Graham Sutherland first visited Pembrokeshire in 1934, a trip he later recalled in his Welsh Sketch Book letter, published by Horizon magazine in 1942.
© Tate, London 2012 / The Estate of Graham Sutherland
“I was visiting a country, a part of which, at least, spoke a foreign tongue,” he wrote. “And it certainly seemed very foreign to me, though sufficiently accessible for me to feel that I could claim it as my own.”
For Sutherland, Wales was where he “began to learn painting” and where he “felt as much a part of the earth as my features were part of me.”
Although he returned to his studio in Kent to work on the final oil canvasses, the Welsh drawings and watercolours convey the energy and adventure of an artist in thrall to a stunning landscape.
Here, a selection of the works he produced during this fertile period can be seen in the setting which inspired them. One of his best Welsh oil paintings, Black Landscape, has been loaned by Tate.
It is dark and intense, like most of Sutherland’s Welsh landscapes, and full of the “exultant strangeness” he described on his trips to Pembrokeshire.
There was a mixture of influences at play within Sutherland and his colleagues in the pre-war years, and visitors may detect trace elements of Samuel Palmer, William Blake and a strong sense of the British landscape tradition overlaid with the influence of Miro and Picasso.
Paintings that grew out of these influences went on to define both the artist and inspire the Neo-Romantic tradition of landscape art which, for a short time during the late 1930s and early 1940s, grew around him.
The exhibition also includes some key Neo-Romantic landscapes from the collection of National Museum Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru, including paintings by Paul Nash, John Piper and Ceri Richards.
But it’s Sutherland’s darkly compelling paintings of places like Clegyr Boia, Porthclais and Sandy Haven that will charm visitors to this wonderfully situated gallery.
- Open 10am-4pm. Admission free. Follow the venue on Twitter @OrielyParc.
- In conjunction with Spirit of Place, the back gallery of Oriel Parc is showing the 2007 film A Setting by Anthony Shapland.