Graham Sutherland, Dark Hill – Landscape with Hedges and Fields, 1940. Swindon Museum and Art Gallery © Estate of Graham Sutherland
The exhibition on until the 18th March at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford has some of my favourite works by Graham Sutherland – those painted in Pembrokeshire and his war artist work. I have been inspired by the Pembrokeshire paintings and sketches since I first saw them in the gallery at Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire which displayed them for some years from 1976 onwards. As I have family connections with South West Wales I could empathize with his love of the local landscape. It always seemed to me his version of Samuel Palmer’s Valley of Vision.
There does seem to currently be a renewed interest in 20th century British art of the inter war period, as seen by the success of Alexandra Harris’s book Romantic Moderns which included a bit on Sutherland and an illustration of his iconic 1939 painting Entrance to a Lane in the Tate Gallery. That always reminds me of the Dylan Thomas poem written in 1933:
THE FORCE THAT THROUGH THE GREEN FUSE DRIVES THE FLOWER
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.
The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.
The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.
And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.
Here is the poem read by Philip Madoc: