Origins of the Land No.1 is a study for the painting of the same name at Tate, for which 53 oil and gouache studies were exhibited at the Redfern Gallery in 1952. In his studies, Sutherland incorporated motifs such as a pterodactyl skeleton, a standing form emblem and rock formations found at Tourettes-sur-Loup near Vence in France. There appears to be a deliberate contrast in the study between the grey rock-like forms and the orange background – perhaps suggesting the contrast between the fiery process that has created earth and the inert materials that come from it.
Sutherland was an Official War Artist from 1941–44, when he painted scenes of devastation, blast furnaces, tin mining and quarrying. After the war he lived part-time in the South of France, which influenced his appreciation of colour.
The final version of Origins of the Land No.1 was produced as a mural for the ‘Land of Britain’ pavilion at South Bank part of the Festival of Britain of 1951. The idea behind the pavilion was to examine mineral wealth following nationalisation of the coal industry a few years earlier.
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