Form on a terrace

Graham SUTHERLAND: artist

Not On Display

About the work

Born in London, Sutherland was at school in the country and early in his life developed an exceptional intimacy with nature, a perception of mysterious forces which was to remain the central element of his creativity. Apprenticed for a year as an engineer, this proved to be wrong for him but the experience gained in exactitude of line was fruitful.

He studied at the Goldsmiths' School of Art in London and started his career as an etcher, a period lasting fourteen years and ending abruptly in 1930, when sales of prints virtually ceased after the collapse of the Wall Street market in 1929. Sutherland taught at the Chelsea School and also worked at commissions for posters and designs for fabrics and china. A visit to Pembrokeshire about 1936 proved to be a rewarding experience, resulting in a highly individual style. In a letter he wrote, 'It was in this country that I began to learn painting. It seemed impossible here for me to set down and make finished paintings "from nature". The spaces and concentrations of this dearly constructed land were stuff for storing in the mind. Their essence was intellectual and emotional, if I may say so. I found that I could express what I felt only by paraphrasing what I saw. Moreover, such country did not seem to make men appear little as does some country of the grander sort. I felt just as much part of the earth as my features were part of me. I did not feel that my imagination was in conflict with the real, but that reality was a dispersed and disintegrated form of imagination.'

Much influenced by William Blake and Samuel Palmer, in a distinctly English ambience, he also has affiliations with the abstractions of Pablo Picasso. Despite the abstract elements, much of his work relates directly to images of nature - bursting seed-pods, stones, trees, insects, hedges...

To quote his own words again 'I would lie on the warm shore until my eye, becoming riveted to some sea-eroded rocks, would notice that they were precisely reproducing, in miniature, the forms of the inland hills.'

Considered to be a leader of contemporary art in Britain, he is represented in many galleries including the Tate and the New York Museum of Modern Art.

The first impression of Form on a Terrace is of stark compelling colour matched by harsh forms. Strong red and varying greens vibrate against each other, while black holds the tension between them. Here is a startling conjunction of forms, which at one moment seem metallic, with the thrust and force of a working engine, and then change to a semblance of living growth. The blocked rectangular shapes give rise to one impression and the curved circular forms create the other.

The painting is so forceful that it hammers at our consciousness refusing to be ignored, creating a new world of intense imagination nurtured by primeval instincts.

Ella Fry, Gallery Images, St George Books, Perth, 1984

Reference: Quoted by Edward Sackville-West in Penguin Modern Painters, 1955.
Form on a terrace
Artist/Maker and role
Graham SUTHERLAND: artist
oil on canvas
144 x 121.5 cm (sight)
162.5 x 139.5 cm (framed)
Credit line
Purchased 1970
The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession number

This is one of the paintings in our collection.