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This stylised still life depicts a central Nailsea jug behind a single purple iris and a dead moorhen. Characteristically, Cedric Morris has rendered the subject matter in the foreground with an honest directness and knowledgeable authority. Encompassing the entire composition is a bold, green, abstract execution of – possibly – a representation of an oversized cabbage leaf. The depiction of dead birds is a subject to which Morris returned throughout his career. The present work predates his celebrated painting Landscape of Shame c.1960, in the collection of the Tate which depicts a mass of dead or dying birds on an open expanse of earth. Landscape of Shame is likely a wry condemnation by Morris on the ill effects of pesticides, which were first noticed in the mid-1950s. Although this painting predates the widespread controversy surrounding the destructive impact of certain pesticides and cropsprays on the British bird population, which came to the fore in the mid-1950s, Morris’ unfailing dedication the...

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This stylised still life depicts a central Nailsea jug behind a single purple iris and a dead moorhen. Characteristically, Cedric Morris has rendered the subject matter in the foreground with an honest directness and knowledgeable authority. Encompassing the entire composition is a bold, green, abstract execution of – possibly – a representation of an oversized cabbage leaf. The depiction of dead birds is a subject to which Morris returned throughout his career. The present work predates his celebrated painting Landscape of Shame c.1960, in the collection of the Tate which depicts a mass of dead or dying birds on an open expanse of earth. Landscape of Shame is likely a wry condemnation by Morris on the ill effects of pesticides, which were first noticed in the mid-1950s. Although this painting predates the widespread controversy surrounding the destructive impact of certain pesticides and cropsprays on the British bird population, which came to the fore in the mid-1950s, Morris’ unfailing dedication the natural world is palpable in this work. By this date, Morris had become renowned for breeding his famed irises - whether painting or breeding them, irises were Morris’s forte. He gained considerable respect 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. Cedric Morris’s lifelong fascination with birds, nature and wildlife is evident in the present work. The purple iris in the foreground arguably illustrates a transition between life and death, due to its juxtaposition with the dead moorhen. However, the iris might also been read as a witty signature by Morris; given his reputation as the most esteemed contemporary breeder of irises, this inclusion might be understood as a recognition of his own status in both the horticultural and fine art circles he moved in. This artwork was owned by the Welsh Painter Esther Grainger, who loaned this painting to the 1968 Cedric Morris Retrospective shown in Cardiff at the National Museum of Wales. Cedric Morris’ lifelong partner, Arthur Lett-Haines, wrote the introduction to the catalogue of the exhibition.

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500 Years of British Art