Patrick Heron (1920-1999) Emerald in Dark Red with Violet and Blue  198 x 396 cm. (78 x 156 in.) (un
Lot 23
Patrick Heron (1920-1999) Emerald in Dark Red with Violet and Blue 198 x 396 cm. (78 x 156 in.) (unframed)
Sold for £86,240 (US$ 143,542) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Patrick Heron (1920-1999)
Emerald in Dark Red with Violet and Blue
signed, titled and dated February 1972 (verso)
oil on canvas
198 x 396 cm. (78 x 156 in.)


  • Literature:
    Mel Gooding, Patrick Heron, Phaidon Press, London, 1994, p.189

    'Paintings such as Emerald in Dark Red with Violet and Blue: February 1972 […] are grand colour machines whose sheer scale and chromatic vibrancy give them a remarkably powerful presence, and their sensational directness and complexities of optical and spatial effect are utterly original in the manner of their achievement. Their idiosyncratic configurations of brilliant colour constitute a major visual invention: they are images as inextricably linked in our mind’s eye with Heron’s name and vision as the circles and rhomboids of Nicholson, the rectangular primaries of Mondrian, or the soft-edged colour clouds of Rothko are with those of their authors.’ (see Mel Gooding, Patrick Heron, Phaidon Press, London, 1994, p. 189).

    Heron’s compositions are visual explorations into the formal act of painting. Colour, space and light were his self-confessed main interests. The subject of the present work is painting itself and the title reinforces this, referring to no object other than colour and the date of execution. Unlike Nicholson, whose abstraction often started from an objective point in reality, Heron’s abstraction is pure subjection. The balance between colours and random shapes is the cornerstone of his work in this period. A certain harmony is found in the emergence and submergence of inverted forms. Emerald in Dark Red and Blue: February 1972 demonstrates how the juxtaposition of visual opposites can be used to create an aesthetically pleasing composition. At the top left a bulging plane of emerald emerges from the dark red which dominates the canvas, to find its counter balance in the partially submerged area of blue in the lower right. Elements of violet, sage and orange creep in at the edges of the composition. The edges themselves were of particular importance to Heron who wrote in 1972, ‘English painters of my own generation, roughly speaking, have always instinctively utilised the edge-areas of their canvases in a way which, one now sees, derives ultimately from Bonnard: William Scott, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon and I myself were all explicitly criticised, over and over again, for this very characteristic by a leading American critic [Clement Greenberg] visiting Cornwall and London in the summer of 1959 – ‘Why do you reach for the edges?’ was his repeated reaction. I explained to him in Cornwall, and later again in writing, that the first four ineradicable form statements in a rectangular painting were in fact the four physical edges of the canvas: further, that these four edges were the most powerful ‘lines’ in the whole composition and were the springboards from which every single movement across the picture surface derived its initial thrust. There is no shape, no area, no defining division between areas on the picture surface but has to relate first and foremost to those four edges and find anchorage in them. Finally, because the eye of the spectator, moving across the canvas, encounters and re-encounters the picture edges (which bounce it back into the composition again) with greater frequency than it encounters any other single shape or line inside the picture, these narrow areas lying parallel to the canvas’s edges are possibly the most active pictorially. One feels it is the edges of the picture surface which are most visited by the eye.’ (Patrick Heron, Colour and Abstraction in the Drawings of Bonnard, Bonnard Drawings 1893-1946, New York, 1972).

    This lot is accompanied by a comprehensive condition report from Mr Philip Young.
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