Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris, Bt. (1889-1982)
When they returned to France, Morris painted the present work in the commune of Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste on the Spanish border, to which he ascribed the undoubtedly playful title ‘A Political Extremist’...
This intriguing portrait depicts Alfred Cholerton, with whom Morris and Lett trekked over the Pyrénées into Spain in the summer of 1923 following a brief stint in the town of Céret. Upon their arrival in Barcelona, the three men were arrested by the Primo de Rivera authorities on suspicion of being communists. Lett believed their dishevelled appearances following their long mountain hike was the most likely reason for their false imprisonment. When they returned to France, Morris painted the present work in the commune of Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste on the Spanish border, to which he ascribed the undoubtedly playful title ‘A Political Extremist’ in reference to the absurdity of their recent adventures and the false identification of his friend.
The work is connected to a broader tradition within portraiture that has its origins in the Italian Renaissance during the Quattrocento, as seen in works such as Portrait of Francesco delle Opere (1494) by Pietro Perugino (1446–1524). The sitter is positioned in the foreground of the spatial plane while the background is occupied by landscape. This aesthetic relationship between 20th-century Modernism and the Renaissance was a common tactic among many avant-garde artists, including Otto Dix (1891–1969), Christian Schad (1894–1982) and Christopher Wood (1901–1930). Morris returned to this format throughout his career, for example in his Self Portrait (1930) (National Portrait Gallery: 5407). In the present work, he represents Cholerton as a calm and collected man with a slight smile, as if he is relishing his and Morris’s humorous secret. Far from a portrait of a political extremist, this is a work of a fellow friend and traveller, and is perhaps one of Morris’s most interesting portraits from his early career.
 For all references to other works please consult the exhibition catalogue