The Armistice in November 1918 marked a day of great significance for the Nation but also for Cedric Morris personally for it was at an armistice party held at 2 Carlyle Square, Chelsea that he met Arthur Lett-Haines (1894-1978) for the first time. Lett (as he was known throughout his life) would eventually become Morris’ lifelong partner with whom he would found the influential East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham, Essex in April 1937. Their relationship is one of great significance to the history of Modern British Art as they led by example and their instruction and guidance at Benton End was instrumental to the artistic developments of many young artists including Lucian Freud (1922-2011) and Maggi Hambling (b. 1945). It was with Lett that Morris moved to Paris in the winter of 1920 where they set up a studio in Rue Notre Dame des Champs in Montparnasse in the Académie Delecluse where Morris had studied for...

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The Armistice in November 1918 marked a day of great significance for the Nation but also for Cedric Morris personally for it was at an armistice party held at 2 Carlyle Square, Chelsea that he met Arthur Lett-Haines (1894-1978) for the first time. Lett (as he was known throughout his life) would eventually become Morris’ lifelong partner with whom he would found the influential East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham, Essex in April 1937. Their relationship is one of great significance to the history of Modern British Art as they led by example and their instruction and guidance at Benton End was instrumental to the artistic developments of many young artists including Lucian Freud (1922-2011) and Maggi Hambling (b. 1945).

It was with Lett that Morris moved to Paris in the winter of 1920 where they set up a studio in Rue Notre Dame des Champs in Montparnasse in the Académie Delecluse where Morris had studied for a brief period in 1914. This part of the city was a haven for artists and intellectuals during the 1920s as well as those wishing to live a more liberal existence. Whilst in Paris Morris and Lett made many friends as they moved through the creative circles that gathered at La Rotonde, the Dôme, and later Le Sélect, all highly popular cafes among the budding avant-garde. Among those associates known were Mary Reynolds (1890-1950) (the partner of renowned provocateur and creative agitator Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968), Edward Burra (1905-1976), Man Ray (1890-1976), Nancy Cunard (1896-1965), Djuna Barnes (1892-1982), Peggy Guggenheim (1998-1979), Kathleen Hale (1898-2000) and Ernest Hemmingway (1899-1961).

Morris and Lett remained in Paris until 1925 using their studio as a base whilst they travelled around Europe. Still Life with Jug which was executed using varying widths of pen nib and black ink is a charming example of Morris’ compositional astuteness and his love for pattern and form. Much in the same vein as Henri Matisse’s (1869-1954) well-designed still lives in this work Morris examines contrasting decorative motifs, such as those adorning the North African-Style jug, the patterned tablecloth and the twisted curves of the bread in the bowl. In many of his still lives Morris exploits the distortion of perspective to great effect. In this work the viewer is looking down upon the array of objects and simultaneously directly head on at them. This stylistic manipulation of viewpoint is inherited from the Modernist tendencies that were being explored in Paris at the time. By moving away from the rigidity of accurate one-point linear perspective Morris has created a work that feels more free and expressive in its composition. This approach is also seen in a comparatively similar work painted the same year and titled Patisseries and a Croissant (Tate: T03952).

At this point in their careers, Morris and Lett were fully integrated within the European Avant-Garde. In this work it is possible to see Morris developing his own approach to domestic subject matter. Colour is what imbues his paintings with a sense of personality, however, in his drawing form is the driving force behind Morris’ unique sense of composition. The juxtaposition of contrasting shapes and lines provide the viewer with a visually playful rendition of reality. It is perhaps this aspect that makes Morris’ work so enduring.

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500 Years of British Art