Lake, Opus 338 signed and dated 64 (centre right), also signed, titled and dated (verso) oil on canvas 122 x 183 cm. (48 x 72 in.)
Provenance: with Catherine Viviano Gallery, New York, 1964 with Gimpel Fils, London with Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London
Exhibited: New York, Catherine Viviano Gallery, May 1964, cat.no.5 Pittsburgh, The 1964 Pittsburg International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, October 30 1964-January 10 1965, no. 251. Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, Peter Lanyon: Later work, September - October 1978
Literature: Andrew Causey, Peter Lanyon, Henley-on-Thames, Aidan Ellis Publishing Ltd, 1971, no.213 Andrew Lanyon, Peter Lanyon 1918-1964, Penzance, 1990 Andrew Causey, Peter Lanyon, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, 1991, no.28
Lake came about through Peter Lanyon's connection with the collector Stanley J. Seeger. Its subject is an ornamental lake that Seeger had had constructed in the grounds of his estate, Bois d'Arc at Frenchtown, New Jersey. Lanyon painted it at his home in St Ives in Cornwall some time between April 1963 when he returned from a teaching engagement in Texas and March 1964, when he wrote to Catherine Viviano, his New York dealer, to say that it was included in a consignment of seventeen works that was about to be shipped to New York. Lake was first exhibited in May 1964, at the Catherine Viviano Gallery in New York.
Seeger bought a painting, Europa, from Lanyon's first one-man exhibition at the Catherine Viviano Gallery early in 1957. After acquiring a further five works, in January 1962 he commissioned Lanyon to paint a mural for a new music room at Bois d'Arc. The mural, Porthmeor, was to be attached to a long, narrow beam, a difficult shape that needed several visits by Lanyon, first to establish the overall imagery and then to make various revisions to it. He visited Bois d'Arc in June 1962, to discuss his three preliminary gouache sketches and, while he was there, made a further eleven 'gouache and polymer' paintings. He returned in November and in February the following year en route to San Antonio in Texas.
Lake is painted in bird's-eye view, as if from directly overhead, though the blue strip up the left-hand side probably represents the sky as Lanyon habitually set contradictory viewpoints side by side. In 1959 he had taken up gliding and made many paintings about gliding and the visual experiences of being in the air. Though Lake is not one of his 'gliding paintings', the uncompromisingly overhead view of the water is certainly related to them. The prominent white band round the lake may refer to a constructed surround, possibly bordered by a path, with grass beyond, while the water itself is full of colour representing reflections and vegetation. On the right-hand side there is a hint of some kind of activity or incident that may involve a figure; it is said that once the lake was completed, Seeger saw a snake in it and never returned to it. His aversion may have contributed to his decision to purchase a different work from the 1964 New York exhibition.
The bright, clear colours of Lake are characteristic of Lanyon's late paintings; they appeared in the works made in San Antonio in response to a brighter, harder light than any that he had previously encountered. The high pink and mauve on the right of Lake and the ribbons of colour in the water are also to be found in the paintings that he made following a two-week trip to Czechoslovakia in February 1964. Lanyon exhibited the Czech paintings alongside Lake in 1964, writing to Viviano before their arrival in New York: 'They are all pretty brightly coloured - oranges, yellows and purples. I am in a good period at present. Czechoslovakia had a good effect.'
We are grateful to Margaret Garlake for compiling this catalogue note.