Peter Lanyon painted ‘Texan Landscape’ while he was artist-in-residence at the San Antonio Art Institute in Texas in 1963. An abstract composition, it holds visual clues to the real world. The rectangular form in the foreground resembles a roadside sign beside a highway. In the distance, black diagonal strokes appear to rise and fall, like the boom and mast of an oil derrick. Like a scene viewed from the window of a moving car, ‘Texan Landscape’ has a sense of immediacy, as if we are moving through an industrial landscape. Lanyon often explored alternative ways of organising pictorial space so that a scene could be experienced simultaneously from all angles, immersing a viewer within a moment in time.
Lanyon was the only Cornish-born artist among the central figures of the St Ives Group in the 1950s. Born in St Ives, he studied at Penzance School of Art in 1937. In 1939 he met Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo, who had moved to St Ives at the outbreak of war. These artists had a great impact on his work, especially Nicholson, who taught Lanyon during the war years.
After 1950, Lanyon’s work remained largely abstract yet indebted to the Cornish landscape. Another key influence on his work was ‘Modern Art in the United States’, an exhibition held at the Tate in 1956 which included work by the leading American Abstract Expressionist painters. A year later, Lanyon had a solo show in New York and met several American artists including Mark Rothko, who later visited him in St Ives. The impact of Abstract Expressionism on Lanyon’s work resulted in large-scale paintings that were freer in style, more intense in colour and which made more overt references to the environment.
In 1959 Lanyon took up gliding, mainly as a way of getting to know the landscape better. Many of his late paintings were based on this experience – but tragically, injuries sustained in a gliding accident were the cause of Lanyon’s death in December 1964.
Born in St Ives, Peter Lanyon studied at Penzance School of Art (1937). In 1939 he met Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo who had settled in St Ives. After 1950, Lanyon’s work remained abstract yet inspired by the Cornish landscape and by the exhibition of American Abstract Expressionism at the Tate (1956). During his solo show in New York (1957) Lanyon met Mark Rothko who later visited him in St Ives. In 1959 Lanyon took up gliding, mainly as a way of getting to know the landscape better – many of his late paintings were based on his aerial experiences. Tragically, injuries sustained in a gliding accident caused Lanyon’s death in December 1964.
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