Morris’ understanding of colour combined with his deep knowledge of flowers has rightly earned him a reputation as one of the most accomplished flower painters of the twentieth century.

This work was painted in 1967 and depicts one of Morris’s favourite subjects; irises. Similar to his other paintings, this work is painted in bold and saturated colours, with his distinctive take on nature evident in this outdoor scene. By 1935, his fascination with irises had firmly taken hold. He established a studio in the garden where he would sit and paint his flower subjects for days on end. Prior to the War, he had been gaining prominence within the gardening world as a breeder of irises and a collector of exotic plants, and this is reflected in the present work. The inclusion of the thrush also evidences Morris’s appreciation for birds; a subject which also he frequently painted.

With regards to gardening, Irises were Morris’s forte, and in this field he gained a considerable reputation as an award-winning breeder, formally registering around forty-five different species and naming about ninety. Some of the better known irises cultivated by Morris...

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This work was painted in 1967 and depicts one of Morris’s favourite subjects; irises. Similar to his other paintings, this work is painted in bold and saturated colours, with his distinctive take on nature evident in this outdoor scene. By 1935, his fascination with irises had firmly taken hold. He established a studio in the garden where he would sit and paint his flower subjects for days on end. Prior to the War, he had been gaining prominence within the gardening world as a breeder of irises and a collector of exotic plants, and this is reflected in the present work. The inclusion of the thrush also evidences Morris’s appreciation for birds; a subject which also he frequently painted.

With regards to gardening, Irises were Morris’s forte, and in this field he gained a considerable reputation as an award-winning breeder, formally registering around forty-five different species and naming about ninety. Some of the better known irises cultivated by Morris include the ‘Benton Menace’, named after his cat, and the ‘Benton Rubeo’, named after his pet macaw. Morris had a studio next to the house, and one ex-student, Joan Warburton, poignantly reminisced how ‘to go in there quietly when Cedric was painting the favourite of all his flowers, Irises, was a revelation.’[1]

Morris’ understanding of colour combined with his deep knowledge of flowers has rightly earned him a reputation as one of the most accomplished flower painters of the twentieth century. Rightly called an ‘Artist Plantsmen’ Morris manages to capture not just an accurate likeness but also a sense of character in his flower paintings. These works are often likened to portraits, each with a personality and a story to tell. The richness of his floral depictions also play a part in this illusion.

Morris would always work on canvas, which had the necessary ‘give’, and applied his paint unsparingly, working in a series of small strokes horizontally, line by line, from the top left corner of the canvas to the bottom right. Millie Hayes, student at the EASPD, recalls Morris advising students not to draw with paint but rather to ‘bounce’ with it across the canvas.[2] It is this unique technique that infuses Morris’ works with a liveliness and a direct sense of presence, as though the viewer is transported into the garden at Benton End.

[1] J. Warburton quoted in R. Morphet, Cedric Morris (London: The Tate Gallery, 1984), p.48.

[2] R. Morphet, Cedric Morris (London: The Tate Gallery, 1984), p.90.

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500 Years of British Art