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Peter Lanyon

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A fiercely Cornish painter and artist, born in 1918. His abstract or near-abstract paintings, collages and constructions were inspired by the coastal landscape of West Cornwall. In 1959 he took up gliding, the experience of which had a powerful effect on his work: "This is why I do gliding myself, to get actually into the air itself and get a further sense of depth and space into yourself, into your own body, and then carry it through a painting." He died following a gliding accident in 1964.
Lulworth (1956) by Peter Lanyon. "I have been reduced to more misery and distress by such paintings than any human being can make for me." The painting shows two lovers, their heads the two mainly white spaces enclosed by black, the thicker black lines in the centre outlining their embrace. The woman is Lanyon's mistress, Susan.

Lulworth (1956) by Peter Lanyon. "I have been reduced to more misery and distress by such paintings than any human being can make for me." The painting shows two lovers, their heads the two mainly white spaces enclosed by black, the thicker black lines in the centre outlining their embrace. The woman is Lanyon's mistress, Susan.

Drift (1961) by Peter Lanyon. "I was flying yesterday and got such a drift on my plane that I nearly ended up in the sea. Somehow such a fate seems inevitable, and I am seriously thinking of flying with snorkel and flippers."

Drift (1961) by Peter Lanyon. "I was flying yesterday and got such a drift on my plane that I nearly ended up in the sea. Somehow such a fate seems inevitable, and I am seriously thinking of flying with snorkel and flippers."

Calm Air (1961) by Peter Lanyon. Turbulent air on the edge of a thermal pushes and shakes the glider, but once it breaks through the outer belt smooth rising air can lift it swiftly and effortlessly. The breach in the vertical red line may be the glider breaking through.

Calm Air (1961) by Peter Lanyon. Turbulent air on the edge of a thermal pushes and shakes the glider, but once it breaks through the outer belt smooth rising air can lift it swiftly and effortlessly. The breach in the vertical red line may be the glider breaking through.

Silent Coast (1957) by Peter Lanyon. "It was a very calm picture, with everything simplified and pushed right to the edges. I painted it from very high up, looking down on a broad expanse of coast. Everything was still and slow moving..." Earlier in 1957, Lanyon met Rothko in New York.

Silent Coast (1957) by Peter Lanyon. "It was a very calm picture, with everything simplified and pushed right to the edges. I painted it from very high up, looking down on a broad expanse of coast. Everything was still and slow moving..." Earlier in 1957, Lanyon met Rothko in New York.

Green Place (1959) by Peter Lanyon. "The thing that I’m interested in ...is that there’s a place or a hill or a rock, or something like that, the thing that I have experienced that I am able to make it into something new which is an equivalent of that... In the end the whole picture has to be that. It hasn’t to represent it, I don’t mean photographic representation...it has to be so charged with that experience that it is, the whole self: it will give back that experience to somebody else."

Green Place (1959) by Peter Lanyon. "The thing that I’m interested in ...is that there’s a place or a hill or a rock, or something like that, the thing that I have experienced that I am able to make it into something new which is an equivalent of that... In the end the whole picture has to be that. It hasn’t to represent it, I don’t mean photographic representation...it has to be so charged with that experience that it is, the whole self: it will give back that experience to somebody else."

Bird Wind (1955) by Peter Lanyon, San Francisco Museum of Art. Painted four years before Lanyon began gliding, one of Lanyon's first works to represent flight. It portrays a stall turn, in which a bird (or plane) climbs until its flight velocity drops to the point where it almost stalls. It then turns, falls and gathers speed until it is flying again and back in control. Lanyon to Patrick Heron: "just completed a flying orgasm".

Bird Wind (1955) by Peter Lanyon, San Francisco Museum of Art. Painted four years before Lanyon began gliding, one of Lanyon's first works to represent flight. It portrays a stall turn, in which a bird (or plane) climbs until its flight velocity drops to the point where it almost stalls. It then turns, falls and gathers speed until it is flying again and back in control. Lanyon to Patrick Heron: "just completed a flying orgasm".

Porthleven (1951) by Peter Lanyon. "...The fishing port of Porthleven from several perspectives, revealing its two harbours and clock tower. Lanyon later identified a human presence in the work, reading the shape on the left as a fisherman with lamp and his wife wrapped in a shawl on the right" [Tate Gallery]. He completed the picture very quickly, just in time for a competition.

Porthleven (1951) by Peter Lanyon. "...The fishing port of Porthleven from several perspectives, revealing its two harbours and clock tower. Lanyon later identified a human presence in the work, reading the shape on the left as a fisherman with lamp and his wife wrapped in a shawl on the right" [Tate Gallery]. He completed the picture very quickly, just in time for a competition.

Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon's Gliding Paintings - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon's Gliding Paintings - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Rosewall (1960) by Peter Lanyon. Probably the first of the gliding paintings. Rosewall is a large hill west of St Ives. This is a climbing turn, in which the pilot banks the plane into a thermal and flies an upwardly spiralling path. As the glider wheels round and round, the sky and ground...appear to slide round the cockpit.

Rosewall (1960) by Peter Lanyon. Probably the first of the gliding paintings. Rosewall is a large hill west of St Ives. This is a climbing turn, in which the pilot banks the plane into a thermal and flies an upwardly spiralling path. As the glider wheels round and round, the sky and ground...appear to slide round the cockpit.

Sky (1956) by Peter Lanyon, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo. The first of Lanyon's paintings in which blue and white began to replace earth colours. Brushstrokes were looser and more gestural, too.

Sky (1956) by Peter Lanyon, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo. The first of Lanyon's paintings in which blue and white began to replace earth colours. Brushstrokes were looser and more gestural, too.

Thermal (1960) by Peter Lanyon. At the bottom of the painting, a thermal is beginning to force its way up through the sky below the glider, spiralling in white strokes through grey-blue air - weightless and yet terrifically strong. Then higher up, where the brushstrokes are looser and more fragile, comes the sense of a weakening air current, as if the glider was poised between rising and falling.

Thermal (1960) by Peter Lanyon. At the bottom of the painting, a thermal is beginning to force its way up through the sky below the glider, spiralling in white strokes through grey-blue air - weightless and yet terrifically strong. Then higher up, where the brushstrokes are looser and more fragile, comes the sense of a weakening air current, as if the glider was poised between rising and falling.

Long Shore (1962) by Peter Lanyon. The encounter of sea and land, seen from high above. Male sea on the right, female land on the left (fertile, nurturing). The curling blue and white lines in the middle may be overlapping waves or perhaps two different air currents meeting high above.

Long Shore (1962) by Peter Lanyon. The encounter of sea and land, seen from high above. Male sea on the right, female land on the left (fertile, nurturing). The curling blue and white lines in the middle may be overlapping waves or perhaps two different air currents meeting high above.