Graham Sutherland

24 August, born in London from a middle class family.

Lived with his parents in Merton Park, Surrey and then at Rustington in Sussex.

Family moved to Sutton in Surrey.

Attended Epsom College.

Served an apprenticeship at the Midland Railway works in Derby, his parents thinking that a career as an engineer would give him a secure livelihood. This experience gave him familiarity with machines and large factory floors which was to be useful to him later on in his paintings of blast furnaces and foundries as an official war artist, and in his studies of mechanical forms.

As there were no vacancies at the Slade School, which was his first choice, he studied at Goldsmiths College of Art, London, specializing in etching under Stanley Anderson and Malcolm Osborne. Discovered Samuel Palmer's work; he recalled later: I remember that I was amazed at his completeness, both emotional and technical.... It seemed to me wonderful that a strong emotion , such as was Palmer s, could change and transform the appearance of things.'Sutherland admired and was friendly with the older etcher F.L.Griggs, a master technician, whose vision of mediaeval England, with life centered round the great gothic churches, was somewhat akin to his own. Drew from nature in Kent and Sussex.

First etchings issued in small editions. Barn Interior exhibited at the Royal Academy, where Sutherland exhibited annually until 1929.

First one-man exhibition at the Twenty-One Gallery, London.

Finalist in engraving section for Prix de Rome. Elected as Associate of the Royal Society of Painters, Etchers and Engravers.

Lived in Blackheath. Converted to the Roman Catholic Church.

Married Kathleen Frances Barry whom he had met at Goldsmith's College and moved to Farningham in Kent.

Taught etching two days a week at the Chelsea School of Art. Spent the summer in Dorset, to where he returned every summer until 1933.

Following the Wall Street Crash the print market collapsed and Sutherland became a commercial designer of glassware, ceramics and posters.

Became a founder member of the National Society of Painters, Engravers and Potters, whose members included Henry Moore, William Nicholson and Bernard Leach. Other than this Sutherland deliberately chose not to get involved in other organizations such as The Seven and Five Society and Unit One.

Began working with the unfamiliar medium of oil paint, at first painstakingly directly from nature.

The paintings of this period, regarded by the author as exercises in the handling of the medium, were destroyed. However a series of drawings and watercolours, in which he permitted himself to treat natural appearances in a freer and more conceptual way, show notice -worthy features: the disregard of naturalism, the rejection of scientific perspective, the use of line to create rhythm and the careful choice of a few colours used not to describe things but to evoke sensations.

Visited Pembrokeshire for the summer. Arrived back feeling that he had begun to find himself as a painter and began transposing his imaginative sketches from black and white into colour in pictures which were the first, he felt, to be serious creative works. About Pembrokshire he wrote later: It was in this country that I began to learn painting. It seemed impossible here for me to sit down and make finished paintings from nature. Indeed, there were no ready-made subjects to paint...I found that I could express what I felt only paraphrasing what I saw. At the same time he met three of his most stimulating and generous patrons: Kenneth Clark, Colin Anderson and Oliver Simon. The Sutherlands returned to Wales every summer until the Second World War.

Showed two paintings in the International Surrealist Exhibition in New Burlington Galleries. Sutherland disliked his paintings being called Surrealist but he conceded that Surrealism did broaden his approach to subject matter. Meanwhile, he was selling his watercolours at the Mayor Gallery in Cork Street.

Showed in a group show at the Agnews exhibiting for the first time with Francis Bacon. He became a great friend and enthusiastic admirer of Bacon's work. Moved to the White House in Trottiscliffe, which remained their home for the rest of Sutherland's life.

First one-man show of paintings (14 oils and 11 watercolours and gouaches), arranged by Kenneth Clark, at the Rosenberg and Heft Gallery. By this time the subject of most of his paintings were such found objects as root forms, gnarled tree trunks and fragments of thorn trees, which demonstrated the principles of organic growth. These objects were divorced from their context and treated as things having intrinsic value of their own. The colours were usually strong and bold and the designs monumental, sometimes with forms viewed end on in violent foreshortening, and there was increasing use of the idioms of the international modern movement. Reviews to the show were very good and amongst the clients the Tate Gallery brought a painting.

At the outbreak of war the Sutherlands were invited by Kenneth Clark to live with his family at Upton House in Tetbury.

Invited by Frederick Ashton to do set and costume design for his ballet The Wanderer.

Appointed as a fully employed war artist and moved back to the White House.Spent his official time recording the destruction of London, Cardiff and Swansea; and Cornwall in the factories, limestone quarries and tin mines. His method throughout was to make rapid notes on the spot, which he then worked up at home into more elaborate drawings, culminating in a definitive version, which he handed over to the War Artist Advisory Committee. His scenes of mining and quarrying and even his pictures of blast furnaces, have the recurrent theme of man s conflict with nature from which he only just emerges victorious.His reputation grew owing to the regular exhibitions of the War Artists  work at the National Gallery.

While in Cornwall he met Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo and Adrian Stokes.

First made contact with Lucien Freud having admired some drawings of his in Horizon. Advised by Henry Moore, Canon Walter Hussey invited Sutherland to make a piece for St Matthews Church, Northampton. Sutherland chose to paint the Crucifixion (not completed until 1946), which faced him with the problem of painting the human figure for the first time on a life-size scale. The work he produced owed much both to Grunewald and to recently published photographs of the victims of the German death camps. In the same period and in close relation to the Crucifixion, he started painting a series of thorn pictures; as R. Thuiller records: While on a walk in Pembrokeshire he reflected once again on the enormous implication of the Crucifixion: My mind became preoccupied with the ideas of thorns and of wounds made by thorns - on going into the country I began to notice thorn bushes and the structure of thorns as they pierced the air in all directions, their points establishing limits of aerial space. I made some drawings and as I did so a curious change took place. While still retaining their own prickling, space encompassing life, the thorns rearranged them selves and became something else - a kind of paraphrase of the crucifixion and the crucified head the essential cruelty.

Spent August in Wales with John Craxton and Lucien Frued. Craxton took them to Picton Castle where Sutherland had his first introduction to the Phillips family. In December Sutherland was sent to Paris on his last commission as a war artist.

First one-man show in New York at Curt Valentin's Buchholz Gallery. Among the clients was the museum of Modern Art and the Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. Sutherland did not visit New York until 1964 but instead he and Kathleen visited Paris where Eardley Knollys introduced them to Parisian culture.

Visited the South of France staying on the Riviera for five weeks in the spring, regularly painting and gambling with Francis Bacon.The South of France and the Mediterranean presented a different world to Sutherland and had a huge impact on his work. The most striking immediate effect was the adoption of Mediterranean subjects such as vine pergolas, palm palisades, banana leaves, cacti and cicadas, accompanied by a heightening and lightening of his colours. The compositions with their linear emphasis, bold patterning and large areas of bright colour, had a very decorative character. From 1947 onwards they spent part of every summer in the South of France. Sutherland met Somerset Maugham who gave him his first portrait commission (begun in 1949), marking, therefore, a new phase in his art; undertaken as an experiment, it proved an immediate success and opened up a new career as a portrait painter which Sutherland was to pursue in parallel with his nature work from then on. Maugham Called the Portrait magnificent and added There is no doubt that Graham has painted me in a mood and expression I sometimes have, even without being aware of it. Returned to the Riviera in September with Lucien Freud. Met Matisse and Picasso, whom he came to know quite well later.

Appointed trustee of the Tate Gallery. Became an increasingly close friend of Douglas Copper whom Sutherland had first met in the thirties while showing at the Mayor Gallery.

Began a series of Standing Forms in which he attempted to place his forms in a realistic setting, forms developed from the bits of trees and plants that he had been collecting on the beach at La Migonelle. They were placed upright like figures, sometimes two or three lined up in a row and in different types of settings. Sutherland called them monuments and presences; unlike the early landscapes these works were much more concerned with the suggestion of the human figure and the human presence but in an indirect way.

Commissioned to paint a canvas 14 x 11ft (The Origins of the Land) for the festival of Britain to be held in 1951; this then became property of the Arts Council who presented it to the Tate Gallery. The painting contains many of the motifs expressed in his smaller works which are brought in like musicians assembling for an orchestral concert. The colour, tone and balance of the work have a close relationship to Arsile Gorky's The Betrohal II (1947). Visited Venice for the first time as guests of Arthur Jeffress of the Hanover Gallery. They stayed in Venice for a fortnight or more every summer for the rest of Sutherland's life.

While in Cap Ferrat Sutherland began a portrait of Lord Beaverbrook, a newspaper proprietor. Sutherland s portraits were often of powerful people; a great sense of drama surrounds the sitters, one can feel the intense authority, which they command, in their different spheres. When asked whether he approached his potential sitters in the same way as landscapes, he affirmed he regarded them as objects in a landscape;however, he added: I am drawn towards a paraphrase in some degree or other in order to display more vividly the inner life and mystery of the subject. But the human face and body is [sic] even more complex and mysterious. One is dealing with a sentient, breathing thing, and in order to obtain flavor, let alone the essence, I feel at least for the moment - that I have to be as absorbent as blotting paper and as patient and watchful as a cat. Sutherland also maintained that: if you falsify physical truth, you falsify psychological truth and set out to convey with total sincerity an accurate description of the sitter, isolating, as in the landscape, areas of intense interest and suppressing elements of lesser importance.

Commissioned by the Queen to paint her portrait (she did not sit for Sutherland until 1961). Commissioned by Basil Spencer to design a tapestry for the high altar at the new Coventry Cathedral, the subject being Christ in Glory in the Tetramorph.'Invited by the British Council to exhibit in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.The retrospective toured Paris, Amsterdam and Zurich. In his contribution to the catalogue Kenneth Clark wrote: He [Sutherland] does not, like the abstract artist, give up imitation in favor of a new pictorial reality; on the contrary, he imitates objects with the most literal accuracy; only these objects do not usually exist. This is due partly to the movement of vision in which they were identified, and partly to his skill in endowing them with the structure and articulation of living things.... His freely created forms give his work an added vividness similar to that of metaphors in poetry.

Retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London, organized by the British Council for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Painted Sir Winston Churchill's portrait, which Churchill so disliked that he destroyed it; it was not a full-dress portrait of a national hero but a personal impression of a great man. Obliged to resign as a trustee of the Tate Gallery following a row.

Bought la Ville Blanche at Menton.

Commissioned by the Queen to paint a composition symbolizing "The Common Interests of Portugal and England" for presentation to the President of Portugal on the occasion of his state visit. Received Foreign Minister's Award at the 4th International Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Japan.

Spent a predominant amount of time painting portraits and supervising the design and execution of the Coventry tapestry, always spending summer months in Venice and France. However, the small output of paintings in these years shows a move towards a more straightforward and traditional approach to nature, partly as a result of his work as a portrait painter, with its close attention to detail; and also perhaps because of his increasing familiarity with Venetian painting. There is a tendency to adopt a more sensuous handling of paint, with freer, more expressive brushwork.

Awarded the order of Merit by the Queen.

Publication of monograph on Sutherland by Douglas Cooper.

Received Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature from Oxford University.

Asked by Pier Paolo Ruggerini to help with the preparation of a film on his work for Italian television. Revisited Pembrokeshire for the first time in over twenty years. From here on he visited Milford Haven several times every year and based almost all of his paintings on Pembrokeshire themes. One of the features, which distinguishes the late works from those of his first Pembrokshire period, is a much greater amplitude: this is not only a question of scale but also of composition and handling. The treatment tends to be frontal, with the forms in shallow layers parallel to the picture plane; there is an emphasis on vertical and horizontals, and on simple, almost geometrical shapes. The compositions are characterized by a state of harmonious balance. The approach is painterly, with colours applied thinly and with a play on light and shade. There are still overtones of drama in these works, but it is now graver and more elegiac, with a haunting quality of stillness and silence.

Produced a series of colour lithographs "A Bestiary and Some Correspondences" (published by Marlborough Fine Art, London) in which his interest in animal themes (monkeys, bats, herons, eagles, toads and so forth) received its summing up.

Met Hanning and Lady Marion Phillips the owner of Picton Castle. Sutherland wanted to leave a collection of paintings to Pembrokshire where he had derived so much inspiration and Phillips offered buildings in the courtyard of the castle for this collection.

Guest of Honor at IX Biennale Internationale d'Art, Menton, with a substantial retrospective.

Named Commanduer des Arts et des Lettres in France along with Kenneth Clark; and Honorary Fellow of the Accademia di S Luca in Rome.

First British painter to be awarded the Shakespeare Prize in Hamburg for outstanding achievements in the arts.Worked specifically on paintings for the Picton Castle Gallery, producing large oils which, in format reciprocate the windows.

Inauguration of Graham Sutherland Gallery at Picton, opened by Lord Goodman, the Trust's first chairman. The collection has since been expanded by further gifts from Mrs. Sutherland, and is now known as the Graham and Katherleen Sutherland Foundation.

Retrospective of portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Died on 17 February in London.

Graham Sutherland Show at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, 15th June - 25th Sept.