Flowers in a Brown Jug oil on canvas 60.9 x 49.6 cm. (24 x 19 1/2 in.) Painted in 1927
PROVENANCE: With Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, 25 March 1930 With Howard Young Galleries Mrs. Thelma Cazalet-Keir, C.B.E Sale; Christie's, London, 20 June 1995, lot 242 With The Lefevre Gallery, London, where acquired by the present owner
EXHIBITED: London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Modern British Painting for Allied Institutes, 1943 London, Royal Academy of Arts, A Memorial Exhibition of Works by Sir Matthew Smith, 1879-1959, 1960, cat.no.161
LITERATURE: John Gledhill, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings of Matthew Smith, Lund Humphries, Farnham, 2009, p.130, cat.no.258 (ill.b&w)
Smith spent 1924 and much of the years 1925-1927 living and working mainly in Paris in an intensive concentration on nude and figure painting. In 1925 he also began to turn to still life and for the most part flower paintings. Initially he made studies of tulips, choosing this flower because of its easy availability, cheapness and relative simplicity of form the tulip being made up of a simple cup-like shape. Like Van Gogh in Paris before him, painting flowers provided a means for him to extend his colour range beyond the simple palette he had been using for the so called 'red nudes' of 1924. Having begun with tulips he rapidly moved on to more intricate flower forms adding roses, dahlias and anemones to his repertoire and then mixing different flowers into increasingly ambitious arrangements.
The various jugs and pots which Smith used for this series of 1920s flower paintings were carefully chosen. He enjoyed what he called 'ferreting' in junk shops where he would search for unwanted chipped or damaged pottery which he could salvage. His collection of old ornate bowls and jugs play an important role in many of the flower paintings and still lifes of this period.
Smith achieved through intensive practice a high degree of mastery of the flower piece, unprecedented in English painting and these flower paintings were well received in Smith's London exhibitions through the 1930s.
Flowers in a Brown Jug is a particularly fine example of Smith's work from this period having been painted in 1927 at a time when his production of flower paintings was in full flow. The flowers are placed on a studio stool which Smith almost always used for the flower pieces and the arrangement is complex and ambitious. This painting was held in a private collection for many years and has rarely been exhibited.
We are grateful to Dr. John Gledhill for compiling this catalogue entry.