Summer: the Force that through the Green Fuse drives the Flower

Ceri Richards (1903 - 1971)

Oil on canvas


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© Estate of Ceri Richards. All rights reserved, DACS 2016

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  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Wales Office, Gwydyr House, Whitehall

    Ceri Richards’ Summer is subtitled ‘The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower’, the opening line of a poem by Dylan Thomas of the same title. Thomas’ poetry, and this poem in particular, proved a constant source of inspiration for Richards for many years. The artist is said to have transcribed the poem in his own handwriting and carefully decorated the pages, as a way of assimilating it into his own creative processes. Richards’ works based on this poem, however, are more than illustrations; they produce visual equivalents for the concepts and emotions conveyed verbally by the poem. For Richards, the poem spoke of the universal dynamic forces of growth and reproduction underlying both human life and the rest of nature.


    The undulating lines and semi-abstract shapes occupy a middle ground between human form and plants. The ‘force’ pushes up like a plume of magma through the mass of green, which could be interpreted as foliage or the sea. It pierces the horizon, budding multicoloured blossoms as it does so. This image of universal productivity is echoed by symbolic references to both male and female reproductive organs, particularly obvious on the far right where the forms metamorphose into the image of a hand. The sun, which may be rising or setting, hovers somehow beneath the rim of the world, and can be seen as an allusion to the processes of birth and decay inherent in all life.
  • About the artist
    Born in Dunvant, a mining village near Swansea, Ceri Richards studied at Swansea School of Art. In the early 1920s, he attended the Royal College of Art where he later taught, in addition to teaching at the Slade and Chelsea School of Art. He often returned to the Gower Peninsula in Wales, which inspired his work. Richards became Head of Painting at Cardiff School of Art during the Second World War. In 1961 he won a gold medal at the National Eisteddfod and in 1962, won the Einaudi Painting Prize at the Venice Biennale. A versatile artist, he made prints, collages, reliefs, costume designs and paintings. He was a Tate Trustee from 1958 to 1965, and received a CBE in 1961. After Richards’ death, major exhibitions of his work were held in Cardiff, Chichester and London.
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    Materials & Techniques
    canvas, oil, oil painting
  • Details
    Summer: the Force that through the Green Fuse drives the Flower
    Oil on canvas
    height: 127.50 cm, width: 127.50 cm
    Purchased from the artist's widow, December 1977
    signed verso
    GAC number