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Still life with Gourds

October has been a busy month, and while I could have been indulging more in the autumnal hues of Britain, applying those ruby reds and auburn oranges to canvas, I instead escaped the impending cold and jetted off to retrace a little of my summer in Spain. Then, as is so often the case when one receives a little treat, fate takes back the pleasure with his devilish sense of humour, and gave me a particularly debilitating throat infection. So apart from my Composition 11, which made a study of autumn’s descent on the once green and pleasant leaves of London’s parks, I have been altogether devoid of autumnal artistic activity recently.

So, in the knowledge that art is not all about me (if only…) and pursuing what I love to do more than anything else – gazing longingly at the stunning work of artists who have gone before me – I thought the time was only right to share with you a painting by one of my favourite 20th Century British Artists, Graham Sutherland.

Sutherland, born in 1903, has long fascinated me as one of the most striking and visceral of Britain’s modern-age artists. Made an official war artist during the second world war, Sutherland’s works are full of the morbid, often violent tumult of war, even when war itself is not the protagonist of his canvases. I love Sutherland’s depictions of the crucified christ for example, which exude the pain of the crucifixion without any of the pretensions of a renaissance depiction, and I love his spiky, pugnacious thorn-head images, which in themselves appear to stem from the imagery of the crucifixion’s crown of thorns.

Still life with Gourds (1948) © the Estate of Graham Sutherland

Still life with Gourds (1948) © the Estate of Graham Sutherland

The painting I have chosen to feature on The Daily Norm today is therefore something of a departure from Sutherland’s more savage war and post-war works, and presents a still life composition of gourds which is warming, and even sensuous to the eye, with its bulbous curves and earthy autumnal colour palette. That said, there is some indication of Sutherland’s spiky reflections in the sharp stalks which punctuate the golden background at the top of the vegetables, while the curved lines of the bowl or perhaps table on which the objects sit are finished with sharp almost threatening points.

It’s a hearty autumnal image, but with a perhaps subtle sense of warning about the uneasy seasonal changes which are still to come. Now if this week’s hurricane winds and beautiful calm orange sunrises are anything to go by, I’d say Sutherland has got autumn painted just right.

The image in this post is the copyright of the Estate of Graham Sutherland. Remarkably, the painting appears to be for sale for those lucky few who may be able to afford to add this piece to their collection – go to for more details. 

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