18 JUNE 1948, Page 14


IT has been clear since the first studies for the Northampton Cruci- fixion that Graham Sutherland's style is changing. His new exhibition—which marks the opening of the new Hanover Gallery, some yards south of St. George's, Hanover Square—shows him working his way through, and perhaps out of, the influence of Francis Bacon, who has been for him something of an eminence grise. Gone is the swelling fullness of the earlier Palmer-like vision, the sinuous line and the defracted convolutions of composition. In their place these thirty-nine oils and drawings he has brought back from the south of France display a harsher, more angular, rectilinear frame- work, upon which is imposed the motif—the piercing barbs of bayonet-sharp palm trees, or the intricate machinery of vines. Where Sutherland used to feel the emotive force of the third dimension, which he subsequently translated into a two-dimensional scheme, he now increasingly appears to think in terms of two dimensions only from the outset. Where he used to feel through and round his subject-matter, his themes are now more or less isolated before a schematic background of slabs of paint to which they are unrelated in any organic sense. Notwithstanding certain new preoccupations with tone and colour, they are further removed from the visual world, and exist simply as microcosmic symbols for a pantheistic philosophy. It is hard to see some of them, the various Cigales, for example, as more than intellectual exercises.

These new paintings are uncompromising and do not solicit admiration. Indeed, that is in part a measure of their power. The unappetising quality of the paint itself (Sutherland shares with Nash a natural fluency in watercolour and a certain inertness in oil colour) is an indication of what their author can afford to disregard. Whether this exhibition, with its acid pinks and yellows, its convulsive hand- writing and its constructional dichotomies, is more than a half-way house remains to be seen. Something of that specifically English tradition which Sutherland revealed so markedly in the past has gone, perhaps for good, and it is, maybe, symbolic that in dating his new pictures he has crossed all the down-strokes of the sevens. * * * The sensuous qualities of painting which Sutherland dismisses as unimportant, are so much in evidence in the work of Jankel Adler that one remains spellbound before it, almost indifferent to the eloquent abstractions of the subject-matter. His new exhibition at Gimpel Fils contains several very fine, oils—a portrait of Agnes Capri, Still Life 1948 and the majestic Girl With Still Life amongst them. Adler's control of his medium is prodigious and quite un- rivalled in this country. * * * .* Space now permits only the briefest mention of some of the other exhibitions. The R.B.A. has been spring cleaning, has developed its membership, and has formulated some ambitious plans for the future. The society's summer show in Suffolk Street reflects the new wind that is blowing, and reveals a very respectable cross- section of conventions. At the Kingly Gallery, off Regent Street, Theo Hancock shows some quite interesting watercolours which would make nice theatre drops. In Oxford, at the British Council building, the Jeune Peinture Belge group are exhibiting. I have yet to see this show, but have every intention of doing so.