Graham Sutherland 1903-1980

Overview

Born in 1903 in London, Sutherland was educated at Epsom College, where he began to explore his passion for art; but was encouraged by his parents to take up an engineering apprenticeship once he left. It was in 1921 that Sutherland persuaded his parents to let him study art, entering Goldsmith’s College of art he chose to specialize in etching and engraving. He then went on to teach both illustration and etching at Chelsea School of Art in 1926.

Although these practices continued to influence a structural and gestural basis in his work, the mid 1930’s marked Sutherlands point of departure from these printing techniques and his practice shifted into the realm of painting. It was around this time that Sutherland befriended Francis Bacon. Although this friendship is often purely viewed as imparting a huge influence on Sutherland’s work, in actual fact the friendship facilitated a symbiotic exchange of influences between the artists. Both artists touch on a wide range of themes including religion, landscape, figures and other natural forms, whilst offering a profound psychological insight in their paintings.

Sutherland also demonstrated an affinity with the Surrealist movement, taking part in the Surrealist Exhibition in London in 1936. He then went on to be appointed as an official war artist from 1941-4, which helped to solidify his established international reputation. He worked mostly on the Home Front, depicting subjects as diverse as tin mining in Cornwall, open cast coal mining, limestone quarrying, bomb damage in London and South Wales and, later, the damage inflicted by the RAF on bomb depots in occupied France. This lead to some large commissions, including completing designs for Coventry Cathedral Tapestry ‘Christ in Glory in the Tetramorph’ between 1954-7 and a portrait of Winston Churchill.

Sutherland’s travelling to the South of France and his return to Pembrokeshire in later years inspired his mature style to lead back to an intimate portrayal of landscape.

Works