Jerwood Foundation

Peter Lanyon (1918-1964)

Sharp Grass, 1964

  • Details

    © Sheila Lanyon. All rights reserved, DACS 2013
    signed and dated ‘Lanyon 64’ (lower right)

  • Medium

    gouache and charcoal

  • Dimensions

    30½ by 22½ in. (77.5 x 57 cm.)

  • Provenance

    with Gimpel Fils, London.
    Dr T. Sutherland.
    with Jonathan Clark, London.
    Private Collection, UK.
    with Offer Waterman, London, where purchased in June 2008.

  • Exhibited

    London, Gimpel Fils, 1964

  • Literature

    Collection Catalogue, Jerwood Collection, London 2012 p.32

Lanyon was described by the critic, Lawrence Alloway as ‘Our last landscape painter’ and until his untimely death at the age of 46, as a result of injuries from a gliding accident, Lanyon drew much of his inspiration from the landscape that he observed. His passion for gliding, which he took up in 1959, had one of the most profound effects on his work as he translated his airborne experiences into such paintings, collages and constructions as this example.

In a radio programme, recorded in 1963, Lanyon commented, ‘This is why I do gliding myself to get actually into the air itself and get a further sense of depth and space into yourself, as it were, into your own body, and then carry it through a painting, I think this is a further extension of what Turner was doing’.

Born in St Ives, Lanyon spent most of his life in Cornwall, becoming a key figure of the artistic colony based there. He studied at the Penzance School of Art (1936-37) and also at the Euston Road School (1938). When the trio of Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo moved to St Ives with the outbreak of World War II, new influences fed into his work and he began to make constructions. During the 1950s, Lanyon’s work was exhibited in New York on several occasions and he met and befriended a number of important American artists, including Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell.

Lanyon was a founder member of the Penwith Society of Arts (1949), although he resigned a year later. He taught at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham (1950-57) and ran an art school in St Ives with Frost (1957-60). Lanyon served as a pilot during World War II and, in 1959 he took up gliding in order to experience the Cornish landscape in a new way. Tragically, he died as a result of injuries sustained in a gliding accident in 1964. Retrospectives were held at Whitworth Art Gallery (1978) and South Bank Centre (1992).