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Peter Lanyon (British, 1918-1964)

The relationship between the human body and landscape was one of the principal concerns that emerged in Lanyon’s mature work, and the 1954 painting 'Europa' was his first large-scale canvas to fully realise a synthesis between the landscape and the body. Not only had Lanyon fused the traditional modes of landscape and nude, but he had also created a painting which steered a middle course between representation and abstraction.

The present painting relates to the series of drawings and paintings Lanyon made of the female nude prior to this great work. He experimented with twisting the body into unconventional poses, and this vertical arrangement, with the head at the base of the painting, was one he tried several times (in 'Drawing for Europa' and 'Nude' (both 1954)). This configuration allowed Lanyon to experiment with his interest in ambiguous perspectives: it is not quite clear from the vertical foreshortening whether the painter is situated behind a supine model’s head, or whether an imaginary inversion has taken place, abstracted from the reality. The painting is characteristic in its fast, gestural brushstrokes, and corresponds with 'Nude' (1954) in its use of wandering dark strokes over a flattened lighter base to explore bodily contours; such overpainted contours are found throughout Lanyon's mature work, indicating motion as well as defining by outline. The present work reaches an intense climax in the lighter grey swirling at the head that synthesises the dark grey and white of the body, producing a painterliness that is closer to abstraction than to a rendition of hair. This moment is comparable to the agitated circular climaxes of 'Thermal' and 'Rosewall' (1960). Peter Maber.

Andrew Causey, Peter Lanyon: Paintings, Drawings and Constructions, p. 34.
Margaret Garlake, The Drawings of Peter Lanyon, pp. 61-2

Peter Lanyon. Nude

Nude (Study for Europa)
c. 1954
Gouache on brown paper, laid down to board
signed in pencil
50 x 34 cm.

Condition: The work has been painted on brown paper and laid down to board, probably by the artist. Whilst this has led to some losses and rippling of the paper, the presentation is in keeping with Lanyon’s aesthetic of spontaneity and of naturalness.

(within bespoke grey wash frame)

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