Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris, Bt. (1889-1982)
Despite the fact that Morris was an immensely prolific painter of portraits, travel works and still lives, it is perhaps his flower paintings for which he is best known. Morris consistently worked from species of plants and flowers that he greatly admired and in almost all instances those which he propagated himself at the Pound and later Benton End.
This lively depiction of fritillaries and tulips was painted by Cedric Morris in 1934, soon after he moved to Pound Farm near Higham in Suffolk with partner Arthur Lett-Haines (known as ‘Lett’). The flowers, all of which are identifiable, are painted by Morris in a typically bold manner using bright colours and confident sweeping strokes. So thorough was Morris’s understanding of his subject that he manages to capture not just the colour and form of each flower, but aspects of personality too...
During the early stages of the 1930s Morris and Lett became increasingly withdrawn from the commercial art scene in London. By this point Morris had already established himself as one of the most sought after painters in England at the time and yet the fashions and tastes of London began to seem somewhat stifling for an artist drawn to the countryside and the freedom that came with it. In 1929, Morris and Lett took out the lease on a charming cottage in Higham, Suffolk name Pound Farm. They had given up their Great Ormond Street Studio at the start of the decade and slowly the couple detached themselves from the professional art scene. Morris severed ties with his long-time dealership Arthur Tooth & Sons in 1932 and resigned from the 7 & 5 Society the same year despite having been elected Chairman of the group on 3rd January 1931 by his fellow members including Ben and Winifred Nicholson (1894-1982, 1893-1981).
In 1934 when this work was painted, Morris and Lett had not yet established the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing and yet activity at the Pound, in many respects, foreshadowed the creative ethos that came to define the EASPD. It was a place to which artists, intellectuals and fellow gardeners and plantsmen/women flocked to immerse themselves in artistic production, conversation and lively social gatherings. The Pound was very much a bohemian retreat from the confines and demands of the commercial art world. Although it would be Morris’s gardens at Benton End that assured his reputation as one of the most adept and inventive horticulturalists of the time, the one at the Pound was equally revered and admired. Morris began breeding Irises in 1934 whilst at Pound Farm but prior to this he was already an avid and recognised plantsman with an encyclopaedic knowledge of wild flowers. Although the garden at Pound Farm would later be overshadowed by Benton End, it was nonetheless a sight to behold for visiting guests. Flowers, succulents, exotic vegetables and a menagerie of animals including Rubio the Macaw, who would later join Morris and Lett at Benton End, were among the high points visitors could expect to see at The Pound.
Despite the fact that Morris was an immensely prolific painter of portraits, travel works and still lives, it is perhaps his flower paintings for which he is best known. Morris consistently worked from species of plants and flowers that he greatly admired and in almost all instances those which he propagated himself at the Pound and later Benton End. His keen and scientific understanding of plants and flowers informed his approach when he came to paint them. This imbues his painting with a sense of heightened character and individuality particularly when discerning the formal and tonal differences between flowers. In Fritillaries and Tulips Morris chose to use the slightly unusual format of a perfectly square canvas to enclose his organic scene. By juxtaposing various species of identifiable flowers that vary greatly in structure, the square serves to reinforce the sense of activity and movement in an otherwise static work.
In this painting there are eight identifiable species of plant and flower that can be listed. They are as follows:
The resultant work is full of specificity and personality, both in respect of the individual floral characteristics at play and the composition itself dictated by Morris’ own choices when selecting which flowers to suitably represent Easter. This is perhaps one of the most exuberant and joyous works that Morris painted in the 1930s at a time when he was becoming just as well known for his flower breeding as he was for his art. It is a piece that is full of admiration and respect for the variations to be found in the natural world.