Artist Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) was influenced profoundly by the locations in which he worked and during the 1930s he developed a very personal vision of the Pembrokeshire landscape, noting that ‘I felt as much a part of the earth as my features were part of me’.
A new exhibition Spirit of Place: Sutherland and the Romantic Landscape at Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre in St Davids, Pembrokeshire (16 March – 8 July 2013) includes work the collection of Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, and also includes a loan of a major Sutherland oil painting from Tate, Black Landscape. Painted between 1939 and 1940, Black Landscape is one of the best examples of Sutherland's early work in Pembrokeshire.
Graham Sutherland, Black Landscape 1930-40 (On loan from Tate)
The exhibition shows Sutherland’s landscape art prior to and during World War II, alongside other Neo-Romantic landscapes from the collection of Amgueddfa Cymru, including artists such as Paul Nash, John Piper and Ceri Richards.
Sutherland’s vivid and strange paintings of places such as Clegyr Boia, Porthclais and Sandy Haven were an important part of a growing trend in British art during the first half of the twentieth century, which came to be known as Neo-Romanticism.
Rather than simply painting what he saw in front of him, his more emotional, symbolic engagement allowed him to express what it meant to be a part of the landscape. As the threat of the Second World War took hold, this approach was adopted by other artists working across Britain, a number of who were appointed as Official War Artists.
Neo-Romantic artists took early inspiration from the work of nineteenth century Romantic visionaries such as Samuel Palmer and William Blake, who had themselves lived through turbulent times. Sutherland and his contemporaries combined this pastoralism with modern European styles such as Abstraction and Surrealism, to try to capture the 'spirit' of the British landscape at a time of change.
On show in the back gallery at Oriel y Parc, in conjunction with Spirit of Place, is the 2007 film A Setting by Anthony Shapland. This showing at Oriel y Parc will be the first time Amgueddfa Cymru has exhibited the work since it was acquired. Taking place in a landscape, as day becomes night, A Setting quietly subverts aspects of the Romantic landscape tradition to create an understated, riveting human drama about transience and humanity.
A Setting by Anthony Shapland
Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre in St Davids is owned and managed by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, working in partnership with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.
The attraction, which opened in 2008, is a free world-class gallery showcasing artists’ interpretations of landscape, taken from the vast collections of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.
Oriel y Parc also includes a Visitor Centre, Artist-in-Residence Studio, a Discovery Room which hosts family-friendly art and nature activities, a Tower which hosts local arts exhibitions and community-run classes, and a café.
Published 18 March 2013