A blos­som­ing rep­u­ta­tion


The Mail on Sunday - Event - - ART -

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)

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