The Early Years

Changing the Process of Painting Series

March 4, 2021

Victor Pasmore (1908-1998) is considered to be one of the most influential, foremost artists of 20th century British Art, also becoming a leading practitioner in abstract art. He left behind a varied and experimental legacy of which, here in Malta, we are so fortunate to have a variety of his works.

Taking a look at how Pasmore started out; working at the London County Council from 1927 and attending evening art school, like most artists of his time Pasmore drew inspiration from the masters of modern art, copying their techniques and developing his own versions.  His early landscapes have clear echoes of Turner whilst the Impressionists are evident in his figurative painting and still-lifes. These then moved towards the cubist techniques of Picasso and Braque and eventually into the abstract. However Pasmore was dissatisfied with what he had achieved thus far and decided to start again, from scratch. This led to the opening of the Euston Road School (1937-39) which Pasmore co-founded alongside William Coldstream and Claude Rogers. Here students were encouraged to carefully observe and paint from nature. The school closed with the onset of the Second World War and this brought about a new artistic direction for Pasmore. Abandoning realism, he rediscovered his interest in modern art and the writings of these masters, and used this as a springboard for his own artistic development, continuing where they left off.

In this painting we see a medley of influences; Cezanne-style brushstrokes for the grass, Impressionist and Post Impressionist featureless figures, Pointillist flower bushes as well as the use of pure black reminiscent of Manet. A closer look however reveals a series of shapes and patterns that will eventually become not only predominant to, but the essence of Pasmore’s work. The sailing boats are mere triangles and the children’s blue dresses echo this triangular pattern.The dog is a simple curve which reflects the curvature in the landscape where the land meets the lake. The figures seem to be cut-out shapes stuck onto the landscape yet there is a sense of lyricism to the work; two features which Pasmore will experiment with and develop extensively in his later works.

‍Children Playing on the Shore, signed and undated, Courtesy of John Pasmore