Graham Sutherland: Life, Work and Ideas

(1 customer review)

ISBN: 9780718893408
Artist(s): Graham Sutherland
Author(s): Rosalind Thuillier
Format: paperback
Year published: June 2015
Publisher: Lutterworth Press
Total Pages: 290

Artist(s) Biographies:


2 available

A compelling biographical study of a leading twentieth-century British artist, Graham Sutherland: Life, Work and Ideas provides new understanding of how he and his paintings developed. Through her friendship with the artist, and years of research, Rosalind Thuillier creates a comprehensive portrait of Sutherland’s life and works, with valuable additional quotations from Sutherland and those who knew him well. An expansive index of images, many of them previously unseen, offers a fresh view of the artist. Studies by Sutherland, along with preparatory works for what would become renowned paintings, are published for the first time.

Graham Sutherland’s distinctive style and the emotions behind the paintings are here vividly explored. Thuillier describes not only his landscape inspirations from the Pembrokeshire countryside, but also his time as an official war artist, and his friendships inside and outside the art world. The author expertly details the creation of works such as the portrait of Churchill (1954), subsequently destroyed, and his most famous work, the huge Christ in Glory in the Tetramorph tapestry (1962) in Coventry Cathedral.

Graham Sutherland: Life, Work and Ideas is not merely a biography, but goes behind the scenes of the artist’s career, exploring the paintings, relationships and influences that formed his vision as an artist and his undeniable contribution to art.

1 review for Graham Sutherland: Life, Work and Ideas


    Rosalind Thuillier’s earlier book about the artist, ‘Graham Sutherland, Inspirations’ (1982) gave a beginner’s account of the different stages of Sutherland’s career and was notable for its good, sharp illustrations of the later works. Many of these were juxtaposed with photographs of their ‘inspirations’ – namely some detailed rock and plant forms found in the Pembrokeshire landscape. These were by Gilbert Adams, Thuillier’s husband, but it has since become apparent that Sutherland took many of his own photographs of similar subjects, some of which exist ‘squared up’ for transfer into other artistic mediums. Thuillier’s new book is fundamentally an expansion of ‘Inspirations’ although almost all of Adams’ images (except for some shots of Sutherland himself) are missing. Standard divisions of the artist’s career are replicated in the core chapter structure: early work (etchings and domestic designs); the first Welsh period (from the mid-‘30s); war art; religious works; south of France (becoming very Picasso-/Matisse-influenced); portraits (Churchill and others); and the second Welsh period (the last three divisions were chronologically concurrent, the return to those Pembrokeshire subjects beginning in 1967). The book’s strengths are as follows: first, a reasonable number of the works illustrated will be new to readers: ‘Private Collection, Italy’ is given as the source of several early textile designs and some oils and gouaches from most periods of Sutherland’s career. Of particular interest is the good quality colour illustration of Sutherland’s stained glass window in St Andrew’s Church, Promenadengasse, Zurich (designed mid-1960s). Perhaps the major selling-point of Thuillier’s book, parts of which are compendium-like, is the amount of primary material she has assembled: there are archive items from a range of sources including correspondence and interviews, newspaper articles, reviews and reminiscences, many quoted in full. Some are contemporaneous with Sutherland’s career; others were offered in subsequent years by people who were close to the artist and his wife. Most are found concentrated in Thuillier’s Postscript, and it is here, among the rawest reminiscences, that Graham and Kathleen’s complex characters really begin to emerge, ‘warts and all’, perhaps for the first time since their deaths. The account of the early, crazy years of Kathleen’s widowhood is especially gripping.

    Thuillier’s writing about Sutherland’s work is usually descriptive rather than analytical and there are also some specific disappointments in the new volume: some of the illustrations are blurred and/or back to front and on too many occasions non-illustrated works are referred to in the text. There is the occasional howler – Klaus Ringwald’s bronze Christ figure at Canterbury Cathedral cannot be cited (and illustrated) as a probable influence on Sutherland’s Coventry tapestry as it was made and installed in 1992, 30 years after the tapestry was completed! There are instances where the flow of the text jumps about chronologically or veers off at a tangent, causing the reader to lose the thread. These shortcomings may be explained by Thuillier’s illness and death which occurred in the final stages of editing and production. But with her final project the late Rosalind Thuillier has moved from being a marginal contributor to available published material about Graham Sutherland to a substantial one, and her book complements some recent literature, notably by Martin Hammer, which has focussed in much greater depth on Sutherland’s early and mid-career.

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