A blossoming reputation
ALASTAIR SMART SHOWS OF THE WEEK
Cedric Morris: Artist Plantsman Garden Museum, London Until Jul 22 Cedric Morris: Beyond The Garden Wall Philip Mould Gallery, London Until Jul 22
If Cedric Morris is remembered these days, it’s mainly for having been Lucian Freud’s teacher at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing. As well as, among the green-fingered community, for the 90 varieties of iris he bred.
The last major display of his art in this country was a Tate retrospective in 1984. Now, however, comes the chance to enjoy his work anew, with two separate London exhibitions: one at the Garden Museum, in Lambeth, dedicated to exuberant flower paintings (on which his reputation largely rests); and another at Philip Mould Gallery, on Pall Mall, featuring landscapes painted on his travels. Morris (1889-1982) was a fanatical gardener. He’s said to have grown many plants and flowers next to each other specifically for the picture possibilities they’d offer him. In Blue Poppy, for instance, he captured an array of poppies in a gorgeous combination of colours, from orange and red to blue. I suspect the flower paintings will
appeal predominantly, though, to gardeners, who will be able to appreciate the minutiae of what Morris was depicting. For the average person it’s the landscapes – in Philip Mould’s cutely titled show, Beyond The Garden
Wall – that will have more impact. Morris’s travels took him most often to the Mediterranean, partly for the sunshine and partly for the foreign seeds he acquired, brought back to his Suffolk home and then planted. What stands out about the paintings abroad, however, is the feeling of unfamiliarity, like that we all experience in new places; the slightly strange sense of things being different from what we’re used to. In Morris’s case this manifested itself in paintings with surreal touches – of Tunisian olive trees that seem almost to be dancing, and of classical archways that lead on to deserted beaches.
Morris’s art may be nothing like as confrontational as that of his most famous pupil. But surely few could object if his reputation now flowered once again.
Clockwise from left: Pin Mill And Black-Headed Gulls, 1929 (Philip Mould Gallery); Cedric Morris (Garden Museum); Cotyledon And Eggs, 1944 (Garden Museum)