Cedric Morris Travel Paintings An Alternative Escape | By Annabel Bolton, Gallery Assistant

August 10, 2020

As plans to travel overseas feel increasingly precarious, how can we achieve that sense of respite and valuable restoration to which a summertime sojourn abroad might have occasionally been the answer?

There is certainly a sense of solace to be sought in the explorative paintings created by Sir Cedric Lockwood Morris on his excursions abroad. These images, which form their own body within Morris' oeuvre, offer an insight into his perception of his surroundings, the habitats, objects, and environments that fascinated him on his countless trips abroad. To see a curated selection of these paintings, visit our past exhibition page Beyond the Garden Wall.

Recently exhibited at the Philip Mould & Company online stand at London Art Week Digital, was Morris' painting of a series of rooftops in Tavira, Portugal. This work on canvas is a wonderful example of the artist's ability to capture the charm and warmth of an environment which for many, due to the current climate, feels woefully distant and inaccessible.

Between January and February 1959, Cedric Morris was travelling around Portugal, a country he had returned to again and again throughout his life. From 21st January he settled in the intimate coastal city of Tavira for almost a month. The rhythmic strokes appear to mimic the subtle pulsating warmth of the sun in Tavira which even at this time of year, tickles the rooftops from almost directly above; there is little shadow cast by the balcony in the foreground. Thread-like clouds weave themselves through the sky, heightening this sense of a mild winter climate and a single palm tree penetrates the architectural landscape on the right-hand side of the picture plane. The architectural significance of the buildings speak of the history and therefore personality of Tavira.

Morris was a culturally active and engaged individual; not only a nationally renowned painter, he was equally celebrated as a plantsman and breeder of several different species of flowers. His love of travel was partially fuelled by a love of history, which his depiction of the Church of Saint Mary of the Castle in the centre of the canvas denotes. This thirteenth-century religious structure houses the tomb of the Portuguese conqueror Paio Peres Correia, who died in 1275. The church itself has a rich history; it was built on the site of a Moorish mosque, and having been severely damaged in the earthquake of 1755, was largely remodelled in the neoclassical style, hence its more modern appearance in Morris' painting, as it stands today.

Morris translates his familiarity with his Tavira surroundings into paint, and the present work seems to hold the ability to transport the viewer to the Portuguese paradise. One can almost smell the sea breeze intertwined with the dusty scent of the narrow streets, cowering beneath bright white and earthy buildings. So, whilst Covid-19 may have cancelled your summer plans overseas, perhaps it is the perfect time to turn to artworks such as these for that same sense of escape and a feeling of calm.

View our most recent Cedric Morris exhibition, A Call to the Country, here.

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