Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris, Bt. (1889-1982)
In the middle-ground can be seen the Church of Saint Cecilia, a place of worship dedicated to the patron saint of musicians. An annual festival is held in her honour each November...
In January 1958, Morris travelled on his own to Porto and the surrounding towns in northern Portugal. Travelling in winter was common practice for Morris, leaving Benton End in the care of Lett, as he journeyed to collect plants and work on his painting. In previous years, Morris had travelled in the company of fellow plantsman and friend Nigel Scott. However, following Scott’s premature death in 1957 from contracting a fatal fever, Morris made the trip in 1958 alone.
This view of the small civil parish of Abrunhosa-a-Velha was painted by Morris during this trip and is a typical example of his colourful, simplified approach to subject matter and loose, post-impressionist handling.
In the middle-ground can be seen the Church of Saint Cecilia, a place of worship dedicated to the patron saint of musicians. An annual festival is held in her honour each November. It is likely that Morris painted this view from a vantage point on one of the numerous hills overlooking the town. Working en plein air would have enabled him to work as the Impressionists did before him: painting quickly in order to capture the change in light and contrasts in tone caused by the ever-shifting environment. However, although Morris applies his paint as a series of short, individual daubs, he departs from further impressionist tendencies by muting his tonal contrast and segmenting each flattened surface plane in a manner similar to that of Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), as seen in a work such as Auvers, Panoramic View (1873/5) (Art Institute of Chicago: 1933.422). An element of Morris’s earlier faux-naïf style can be seen in this work. An overall simplification of the constituent parts and reduced concern for entirely accurate representation is characteristic of this. Here, this can be seen in the exaggerated patterning of the roofs and walls, as well as the way in which Morris distorts the perspective between the clusters of houses. The overall effect is one of playful licence, which produces a charming interpretation of the Portuguese town. The work is an expression of Morris’s admiration for the foreign colours and patterns he found among the more obscure places to which he travelled.