Three Painters. At the Leicester Galleries
GRAHAM SUTHERIAND has developed gradually. Now, at thirty. six, he is a first-rate painter at the beginning of a mature pro. duction. His development—steady, slow and at times evidently painful—has been for years a lesson in deportment for young artists ; the chief burden of the lesson being a sense of propor- tion about what a good painting is. Many English artists born with a " gift " are too ready to use it unquestioningly to produce frameable pictures at an early age, and are too willing to go on producing them indefinitely, confining experiment and im- provement within narrow limits. Others step on to some artistic 'bus that happens to be passing, and become adherents of groups and movements which dictate the rules of their future game. There are many ways of acquiring a sense of proportion, copy- ing the old masters is one of them, and in that way one develops a humility that only occasionally freezes the vitals. Graham Sutherland, I should say, developed his fortifications of humility in two ways—by his intricate and laborious work as engraver, and by his tremendous respect for certain great visionary painters —El Greco, William Blake and Samuel Palmer among them. His roots are in the same soil as those of Palmer. and Blake, and he has found a way of interpreting visions in the twentieth century that are at once more national, more personal and universal than any interpretations that have been made under the banner of surrealism.
Colour is the connecting link between different Sutherland visions. The forms vary widely from those of Sunset with flying moths to those of Rocky landscape with cairn, but the colour is so rich and concentrated that each picture seems an urgent revela- tion. In one mood a spectator can apprehend here, goggle-eyed, the basilisk and the cockatrice, but when that palls he will find a continuing satisfaction in these literally titled visions of Rock- strewn fields rising to mountains, Tree forms in estuary, and so on. These paintings are vigorous and dangerous as painting in 1940 should be, and too seldom is. They are dangerous because the sympathetic spectator will find himself, if he is not careful, being caught up out of his everyday life, and, like Words worth's three-year-old,
Roll'd found in earth's diurnal course With rocks and stones and trees.
The recent paintings of Richard Sickert appear, as a group, pale and sensitive—almost ethereal. There is no room to dwell on them here, but they should be looked at, and at length. They make one hope that Mr. Sickert will go on painting for at least another twenty years, so that he may thoroughly explore the ground that is mapped out here—ground that is new to him as well as to us. They show a humility and a lack of affectation that has not been equalled in English art for a hundred years.
The drawings in pen and water-colour or gouache by Walter Goetz look so decorative as a collection that one is tempted to enjoy them as period pieces (period 1940), and leave it at that, which would be a great mistake because to look into them is to be rewarded with many delights. This painter's qualities are firstly, those of a highly sensitive appreciator, who knows what colours not to use, and knows how to dispense with weedy and otherwise unfit forms. Secondly, and more important, he is a painter who delights in the subjects he paints, and communicates his delight: This is rare enough in these days of ideas, dreams and unpalatable realities. His enjoyment of the beauty of French villas and small ports is a lesson for many good painters in haw to react sensibly to their subjects. Mr. Goetz has more power than he is yet using, but this charming collection of drawings