There are two paintings by Victor Pasmore at Carrick Hill, Self Portrait with Flowers and Pink Rose. Pasmore was born in 1908, and his early interest in painting was encouraged by his family and developed further at school. By the age of seventeen he was an enthusiastic amateur, painting the countryside of his native Sussex. He painted the land he saw and knew, naturalistically in the open-air style of the impressionists.
The death of his father in 1926 prevented him from enrolling full-time at art school. Instead he worked as a clerk for the next eleven years, attending evening art classes after work. His work from this period is intensely realistic, showing the influence of the teaching he received.
In 1933-1934, he became a member of the London Artists' Association and the London Group, where he met and was influenced by painters such as Ivon Hitchins, Walter Sickert and Ben Nicholson, who were experimenting with modernism. His pictures from this time show a new freedom of colour and form, with influences from Matisse and the fauves. In 1932-1933 he had painted some abstract works, but these were never exhibited and he later destroyed them. He returned to objective realism feeling that he had failed to completely understand abstract principles.
In 1937, with his friends Claude Rogers and William Coldstream, he started a school of drawing which later became known as the Euston-Road School. He was still painting part¬time, feeling himself to be a week-end painter, and conscious of his lack of art school training.
In 1938, due to Kenneth Clark's patronage, he was able to begin painting full-time and felt himself more the professional artist. When war started in 1939 the Euston Road School where he had been teaching closed. He registered as a conscientious objector, but was forcibly enlisted, imprisoned and discharged. He met and married fellow artist Wendy Blood in 1940, and began a series of small intimate studies of her and their life together. These paintings of his domestic life are soft, delicate and calm, in total contrast to the violence of wartime events.
Robin Ironside in Horizon (1945) called him 'a Whistlerian painter at this time. . . more decorative and sensuous than interpretive'.
In 1942 he moved with his new wife to a house in Chiswick, overlooking the Thames. The Chiswick years were a period of rapid development and learning from many sources-old masters, contemporary artists and modern theorists. Self Portrait with Flowers was painted in 1942 and it may have been painted at the new house. By now, the soft pastel tones of the early marriage studies had deepened, the tones are sombre and dark and the artist looks out at the viewer with a stern, tense expression. Perhaps war-time tensions are showing their effect. The picture has a tilted spatial depth, with very strong construction lines leading the viewer's eye inexorably to the brooding face of the artist.
This painting is one of a group of works of domestic genre inspired by Pasmore's study of Vermeer. The roots of this influence may be found in an exhibition called Paraphrases held in February 1939 at the Storran Gallery. This was a Euston Road exhibition, thirty-two artists painted free copies of old master works, and also included were some old master copies of contemporary works, such as a Tiepolo after a Veronese. Pas more chose Vermeer's Lace Maker (Louvre) and painted a small work 29 x 24 cm from a photograph of the original. Clive Bell described the result as a 'palimpsest' meaning that while not being an exact copy, it gave a very strong feeling of the original, combining the styles of both artists. He gave great praise to Pasmore's conveyance of the mood of the original, with his soft light illuminating a subject concentrating intently on an activity at a table.
In Self Portrait with Flowers (1942), soft daylight floods the picture from the left. The background is a rich warm brown and the artist is seated at the table, looking directly at the viewer, and is treated in a realist manner. The table is covered with a white cloth, and this and the floating shapes of the flowers give light to the work. There is a rich touch of emerald green in the transparent glass jug. The flower shapes are abstracted and there are no flower stems in the glass jug.
Pasmore's use of colour seems to have been influenced by Walter Sickert's work of the Camden Town period 1906-1918. At Carrick Hill, Sickert's The Red Blouse (Mrs Barrett), 1908, hangs near Pasmore's Self Portrait with Flowers. Mrs Barrett is painted against a dull grey-green background and she is wearing a striped red and buff blouse. The effect is rich, sombre and tonally dense. Pasmore uses a similar colour palette, sometimes softening the earth tones or clearing the greens.
It is in his pictures of gardens running down to the river that Pasmore started to move again towards abstraction. Bare tree branches are made to make curvilinear patterns, sometimes suggesting a spiral movement, a theme which was to interest him for the next thirty years.
In the period 1943-1944, his riverside studies show the first stage of his return to abstract paintings. He makes use of fence poles and notice boards as abstract shapes, but they are still real objects in a realist view; he is still using post-impressionist techniques, such as pointillism, but is becoming more interested in structure, pattern, light, space, and colour.
The Carrick Hill Pink Rose (1948) seems to go back to a figurative treatment for the rose in the glass and a round plate standing behind the rose, but both objects are close up to the picture plane with no spatial depth in them. The rose is quite realistic, but the plate is decorated with abstract spiral lines. The two shapes, the flat circle of the plate and the cylinder of the glass, contrast and fill the area of the picture. In view of Pasmore's habit of cutting down some of his still-life works to concentrate on a particular area, it is interesting to wonder if this could be the smaller portion of a larger work.
In 1948 Pasmore reached a watershed. At this time he made a total commitment to abstraction, with constructional collages influenced by Charles Biederman and Ben Nicholson. This developed into an interest in architecture, and he was appointed consultant director of urban design for Peterlee New Town, 1955-1957. Durham University appointed him master of painting in 1955, and as a result he has had a major influence on art teaching in Britain. In 1983, he was elected to the Royal Academy.