Opening this week are two exhibitions of British artist Cedric Morris (1889–1982), at the Garden Museum and Philip Mould & Company. The Garden Museum will stage the first museum show of the artist’s work in over 30 years.
Sir Cedric Morris, Cedric Morris, c. 1930, Oil on canvas, © National Portrait Gallery London 5407, courtesy the Cedric Morris Estate
A contemporary and friend of Paul Nash, Christopher Wood and Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Morris was a crucial figure in the British Modern tradition and these exhibitions will reinstate him at the forefront of the British avant-garde. Best known for his depictions of plants, Morris took flower painting out of the taxonomic sphere into an expressionist mode that was distinctly Modern, echoing surrealism and cubism.
Also a painter of landscapes, still-lifes and portraits, Morris was the only person of his generation to achieve national stature both as a painter and a plantsman. In Benton End – the home in Suffolk he shared with his lifelong partner, the artist Arthur Lett-Haines – he cultivated at least 90 new varieties of iris, which were brought back to public attention by Sarah Cook at the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show. He also played host to many of the luminaries of the day, including Elizabeth David and Vita Sackville-West. In 1937 he founded the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, which was attended by Lucian Freud as a teenager and, later, by Maggi Hambling.
Both exhibitions will run 18 April – 22 July 2018. The exhibition at the Garden Museum will show how Morris’ two disciplines intertwined to form one of the most remarkable artistic lives of the 20th century. It will consist of 34 paintings, the majority of which are on loan from private collections and have never been seen in public before, as well as a number of key institutional loans.
The exhibition at Philip Mould & Company will highlight some of Morris’ most significant works from his travels at home and abroad. Travel was an integral part of both his artistic life and his life as a collector and breeder of exotic species of plants and flowers.