Words and Deeds

Article excerpt

Active as a painter for better than sixty years, as a writer on art for more than fifty, and as a campaigner on art education and landscape conservation for thirty, Patrick Heron never lost his passion, his innocence, or his idealism. That was what made any encounter with Patrick, his paintings, or his words a life-enhancing experience. Whether he was working for the preservation of the independent art schools in Britain or against the removal of field boundaries in West Penwith, his early-modernist sense of the need to adopt a firm moral position, whether aesthetic or political, gave his many campaigns considerable force.

Patrick's passion was inspired by a profound generosity of spirit. He was a maker of reputations for others, not himself. "You open the eyes to those things which ordinary critics are unaware of," wrote Braque to Heron in 1955, on receiving a copy of The Changing Forms of Art.

Patrick opened the eyes of British viewers in a series of articles published in the '40s and '50s, and again in his response to major shows of Picasso, Bennard, Matisse, and Constable in the '90s. He was the early champion of his friends, from Peter Lanyon to Prunella Clough, but he also wrote admiringly of the American postwar painters long before they were held in high regard in Europe. Only later, out of irritation with what he saw as the lemminglike response of British critics, did he react against the dominant position American painting had achieved, to defend the achievements of Lanyon as well as his own and to claim their influence on later developments in New York. …


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