The Red Fish

Patrick Heron (1920 - 1999)

Oil on canvas


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© The Estate of Patrick Heron. All rights reserved, DACS 2016

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  • About the work

    Viewed from above, a red fish on a rectangular plate, a vase of flowers, and a glass are shown on a table. A detail of the back of a chair features at the bottom of the composition, while a knife rests on the fish ready to be picked up. The Red Fish is figurative in subject matter, although compositionally, it is arranged in an unconventional manner. Patrick Heron has used an arresting angle to present the objects directly. Similarly, his use of bold, expressive sweeps of black paint to outline each object conveys the energy and speed of his hand, as if he is painting from a group of objects in front of him. This painting reveals Heron’s emerging interest in the abstraction of forms and most importantly, his passion for colour that preoccupied his artistic approach for the rest of his life.

    Speaking in 1958, Heron said of his work:

    My main interest, in my painting, has always been in colour, space and light. Colour, in particular is both the subject and the means; the form, and the content, the image and the meaning in my painting.

  • About the artist
    Patrick Heron was born in Leeds and studied at the Slade School of Art in London from 1937-39. During the 2nd World War he was an assistant at the Bernard Leach pottery in St Ives, where he met Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. From 1953-56 he taught at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. Until 1955 he worked in a figurative style derived from Matisse, painting still life and interiors with bright colours and complex spatial relationships. His conversion to pure abstraction in 1956 coincided with his move to Eagle’s Nest, Zennor, near St Ives in Cornwall, where he lived and worked until his death. Heron was appointed a CBE in 1977 and was a trustee of the Tate from 1980 until 1987. A major retrospective of his work was held at the Tate in 1998 and his work can be found in international collections including Tate; the Arts Council Collection; and the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh.
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  • Details
    The Red Fish
    Oil on canvas
    height: 63.50 cm, width: 76.50 cm
    Purchased from Crane Kalman Gallery, March 1974
    tl: Patrick Heron / - 53
    R Duncan
    GAC number