Patrick Heron

Patrick Heron CBE (British, 1920-1999)

Patrick Heron became a key figure in St Ives after his permanent move down in the 1950s, although he had previously been active in the town in working as a designer for his father’s firm, Cresta Silks (1935-9, 1944-50), and in assisting at Bernard Leach’s pottery (1944-5). Heron was influenced first and foremost by Braque and Matisse, and worked in a figurative medium until 1955. The first exhibition of American Abstract Expressionism held at the Tate in 1956 was also instrumental in his work as from then on his work became abstract. This change in his work coincided with his move to Zennor, where the garden in full bloom inspired a series of paintings. From 1957 he embarked on stripe paintings, both horizontal and vertical, suggestive of the Cornish coastline. From the 1960s he concentrated on simple forms such as rectangles and a repertory of distinctive shapes that emphasized decorative values and contrasts of saturated colour. In the 1970s he favoured large surfaces of colour painted with small Japanese brushes, with improvisatory shapes that have been compared to the coves and rock formations of the Cornish coast. The 1980s saw a series of more informal abstractions that hinted once again at landscape associations (e.g. Pale Garden Painting, 1984; see Patrick Heron, Barbican Art Gallery, 1985 exh. cat. p. 45). A retrospective of his work was held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1972 and at the Barbican in 1985. In 1980 Heron was created a CBE and was also made a trustee of the Tate Gallery.