Christmas Eve is a tour de force in Heron's mature figurative manner. Painted at Heron's London house in Addison Avenue, but set in the drawing room of his parents' home in Welwyn Garden City, it is an evocation of that magical day in the lives of children. The artist's daughters [Katharine and Susanna] are portrayed at centre foreground and centre right, with a third (fictional) child at lower right, all entranced by music and light. Their grandmother plays the piano, whilst their mother [Delia Heron] arranges the Christmas Tree; Christmas candles illuminate the space around them, in rings or puddles of lemon yellow paint squeezed directly from the tube.
All colour in this dizzying space is purely chromatic, singing in stripes and planes, contained in linearities that dynamically play across the surface: in parallels that turn at angles flattening the space of the room into a decorative unity; in arabesques and zigzags; in curves and ellipses. No object, floorboard, carpet, chair, piano, tree, figure, but demands its own visual rhythm. Nothing is still in this space but the spellbound children, three focal points to which the eye is irresistibly drawn and by them momentarily stopped: the room enters our head as it enters theirs, a dizzying enchantment of sound and colour. An abstract rigour maintains the poise of this marvelous image, its tension keeping at bay any element of sentimentality in its magical evocation: it is the evocation of Valéry's 'poetic machine'.
The Artist The Artist's Family Private Collection, USA
Offer Waterman, London
Manchester, City Art Gallery, 60 Paintings for 51, Arts Council of Great Britain - Festival of Britain exhibition, 2 May - 10 June 1951,cat no.25, illus b/w pl.43, touring to: London, R.B.A. Galleries, London, 22 June - 31 July Leicester, Art Gallery, 11 August - 1 September Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, 8 September - 6 October Bristol, City Art Gallery, 13 October - 3 November Norwich, Castle Museum, 10 November - 2 December Plymouth, City Art Gallery, 8 - 29 December Leeds, City Art Gallery, 7 - 27 January 1952 Newcastle Upon Tyne, Laing Art Gallery, 2 -23 February Glasgow, City Art Gallery, 3 - 24 March Brighton, The Art Gallery, 31 March - 21 April York, City Art Gallery, 26 April - 17 May Preston, Harris Art Gallery, 22 May - 14 June London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 20th Century Form: Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, 9 April - 31 May 1953, cat no.20 Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery, 25 from 51: 25 Paintings from the Festival of Britain, 17 May - 2 July 1978, cat no.12, touring to: Birmingham, City Museum and Art Gallery, 8 July - 12 August London, Barbican Art Gallery, Patrick Heron, 11 July - 1 September 1985, cat no.20, illus colour p.29 Japan, Hyogo Prefectual Museum of Modern Art, St Ives, 8 April - 7 May 1989, cat no.66 , illus colour p84, touring to: Kamakura, Museum of Modern Art, 20 May - 25 June Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum, 2 July - 27 August London, Tate Gallery, Patrick Heron, 25 June - 6 September 1998, cat no.9, illus colour, pp.60-61 London, Waddington Galleries, Patrick Heron Early Paintings 1945 - 1955, cat no.15, illus colour
John Berger, The New Statesman and Nation, vol.XLI, no.1060, 30 June 1951, pp.744-745
Philip James, ‘Patronage for Painters - 60 Painters for '51, The Studio, vol.CXLII, no.701, August 1951, pp.42-47, p.45, illus b/w p.46
The Architectural Review, vol.440, no.657, September 1951, pp.206-208, p.208, illus b/w
Adrian Lewis, ‘The Fifties 1: British Avant Garde Painting 1945-1956: Part 1’, Artscribe, no.34, March 1982, pp.17-33, p.29
Tom Cross and Alison Hodge, Painting the Warmth of the Sun: St Ives Artists 1939 -1975, Penzance and Lutterworth Press, Guildford, 1984, p.92, illus colour p.93, pl.55
Peter Fuller, ‘The Innocent Eye?’, Artscribe, no.54, September - October 1985, pp.40-44, p.41
Vivien Knight, Patrick Heron, John Taylor in association with Lund Humphries, London, 1988, illus colour pl.11
You can unsubscribe or change your preferences at any time by clicking the link in our emails.