Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris, Bt. (1889-1982)
Painted looking towards the raised seating of the theatre, seen in the top right-hand corner of the background, Morris focuses the viewer’s attention on the surrounding rubble of classical structures, caused by the decaying stone monoliths and crumbling colonnades...
The present view, painted in Side, a town established during Greek antiquity and situated on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, shows the ancient temple ruins of a theatre complex, the largest in Asia Minor. Painted looking towards the raised seating of the theatre, seen in the top right-hand corner of the background, Morris focuses the viewer’s attention on the surrounding rubble of classical structures, caused by the decaying stone monoliths and crumbling colonnades.
Throughout his career, Morris was consistently drawn to particular locations displaying a degree of exoticism and unfamiliarity. Nowhere is this more the case than in his travel works, of which there are numerous examples that exhibit his ability to exploit the natural topography of a place and reinterpret it as a new visual expression. In both his flower paintings and those he executed abroad, Morris maintains a balance between that which is founded in reality and that which is derived from his own imaginative licence as an artist. In his catalogue to the 1984 Tate retrospective of Morris’s paintings, the art historian Richard Morphet described this aspect of Morris’s artistic outlook as ‘realism but not reality’. There is always an underlying tension between the descriptive representation of what Morris saw directly in front of him and the overall directedness with which he executed his own interpretation of reality. His flower paintings are fastidious in their attention to anatomical clarity and yet Morris’s aesthetic remains highly individualised and recognisable for its apparent departure from reality. This is equally true of the present view.
The ruinous antiquities shown here could be said to confirm to a pre-existing notion of the ancient stone remains of classical Greece. The engaged colonnade, topped by what would appear to be Corinthian capitals, is one of the most striking emblems within the work of this period in Western civilisation. In an otherwise chaotic composition of strewn debris and crumbling rubble, this classical feature provides a sense of stability and order. It also establishes a link between Morris’s distinctly modern aesthetic and the ancient origins to which all Western art is, in part, indebted.