14 MARCH 1958, Page 16

374 Art

Romantic Landscapes

OF all the varieties of free abstract art so much a la mode the one which seems to suit English painters the best derives from some measure of visual experience. A Peter Lanyon or a Harold Cohen - might say with Nicolas de Stael, `I do not paint before looking.' Those in the neighbourhood of Nottingham should not miss a very valuable exhibition of such work at the University gallery—it is called 'Abstract Impres- sionism'—while in London Lanyon's recent pic- tures_can be seen at Gimpels. The landscapes in his first show in 1941 had the tight, rigid struc- ture which was common to all those St. Ives artists following in the train of Ben Nicholson; since then he has vigorously moved away from that influence, while maintaining his interest in the spirit of place and of Cornish light and geography in particular. He has brought to his new show two curious sculptures of painted plaster, and they characterise, magnify in fact, a weakness I have always found in an artist whom I otherwise admire.

They have a sagging floppiness which is no more characteristic of natural organic objects than it is of constructed ones and such an ineloquent looseneSs of form depresses the vitality of a num- ber of the pictures here. As a whole, however, it is a most impressive show and Lanyon's colour has never been finer. And, anyway, one should be accustomed in England to such informality of form; it is the very essence of Alan Reynolds's painting at the Leicester Galleries, for example. Encouragingly, he persists in the exploration of his Samuel Palmerish landscape. He continues to use the same romantic properties, wheeling suns and moons, plants moving spirally in their growth, seeds floating in the wind, but theie were always tarnished by their art-historical -associations and his expression of them has grown less and less intense with every succeeding show; the present pictures virtually parody his imagery and man- nerism. The roomful of watercolours at a first glance recalls D. Y. Cameron, and then one dis- covers that Cameron was really more responsive to the lie of the land, while his sense of place was certainly no less sentimental than Reynolds's.