Artist Spotlight: Cedric Morris

The Estate of Sir Cedric Morris is the latest to join Bridgeman Copyright. We take a look at the artist’s beautiful work, which is now getting increasing recognition in the international art world.

 

Several Inventions, Cedric Morris (1889-1982) / Private Collection

 

Cedric Morris (1889 –1982) was perhaps best known for having taught two other famous British artists (also Bridgeman Copyright artists) Lucian Freud and Maggi Mambling. Also for being friends with prominent British avant-garde luminaries such as Christopher Wood, Ben Nicholson, and Barbara Hepworth.

His own work did not quite achieve the same prominence as his famous friends at the time, but is now getting the recognition it deserves. This year there were two exhibitions of his work in London, one exploring his love of horticulture and paintings of flowers at The Garden Museum in Lambeth, and one at the gallery of Phillip Mould, which focused on his landscapes, painted during his travels around the UK and Europe.

 

Quinta, Catalina, Morelia, Mexico, 1939 (oil on canvas), Cedric Morris (1889-1982) / Private Collection

 

Cabbages, 1953, Cedric Morris (1889-1982) / Private Collection

 

Cedric Morris was born in Swansea on 11th December 1889. When he was 25 he went to Paris to study art, until interrupted by the onset of WW1.

Morris was discharged in 1917, after which he moved to Cornwall. It was in Cornwall where he began to study plants and paint them. Horticulture was to become an obsession of his, and this passion can be seen in his glorious still lives of flowers and produce, as well as his skills as a gardener for which he became well known. In fact there are many plants that have subsequently been named after him, including the Benton Menace (named after his cats), and Benton Rubeo, (named after his pet macaw).

 
Self Portrait, 1919 (oil on millboard), Cedric Morris (1889-1982) / National Museum Wales 

 

Portrait of Lett Haines, 1927 (oil on canvas), Frances Hodgkins (1869-1947) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images

 

 

While in Cornwall he met the painter Arthur Lett-Haines who became his life-long partner. In many ways their relationship was ground breaking and unconventional for the time, not least because they lived openly together as a couple.

They lived in Paris for 5 years, and then London once Morris’s painting career began to take off.

In 1929 the couple decided to move to the Suffolk so that Morris could pursue his passion for horticulture. They lived for a time at Pound Farm where they had many visitors (including Barbara Hepworth), and held spectacular parties. Morris developed the gardens there, which became renowned for their beauty.

 

From a Window at 45 Brook Street, London, W1, 1926 (oil on plywood), Cedric Morris (1889-1982) /
National Museum Wales

 

In April 1937 Morris and Lett-Haines opened the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham. At the time of opening, the school had just one other teacher, a secretary and one pupil to its name. However by December 1937, it had 60 pupils and held its first exhibition.  

The school moved from Dedham to Benton after a fire destroyed the original building in 1939.

The school was described in the prospectus as: "an oasis of decency for artists outside the system". The style of teaching was based on an informal approach, concentrating on the individual styles and potential of the pupils, rather than adhering to strict Academic rules. Instruction was kept to a minimum, the ambience being more that of a family of artists striving for a common cause. This approach had a great influence on many artists and made an important contribution to art teaching in the east of England for many years.

 
Heron, 1941 (oil on canvas), Cedric Morris (1889-1982) / Astley Cheetham Art Gallery, Stalybridge,
Greater Manchester

The most notable student of the school was Lucian Freud, who in 1939 aged 17 was one of the first pupils to enrol. The two came to greatly admire eachother's work. Later Morris was to write of his former pupil ‘I have always admired his paintings and everything about him .’

Freud's early work was much influenced by Morris, as evidenced by the portrait he did of Morris (below left), completed in 1940.

 
 Sir Cedric Morris, 1940 (oil on canvas),  Lucian Freud (1922-2011) / National Museum Wales

 

Mary Butts, 1924 (oil on board), Cedric Morris (1889-1982) / Private Collection / Estate of Cedric Morris

 

Other well-known students of the school included Maggi Hambling, David Kentish, Bettina Shaw-Lawrence, Lucy Harwood, Joan Warburton, Glyn Morgan, and Valerie Thornton. It experienced its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, when it was described by a visitor as a "powerhouse of art and literature, good food and lively conversation".

On 8th February 1982 Cedric Morris died and was buried near Arthur Lett-Haines at Hadleigh cemetery.

The day before he died his friend and former pupil Maggi Hambling went to visit him, after which she drew this touching portrait of him.

 

Cedric, February 8th 1982 (charcoal on paper), Maggi Hambling (b.1945)
/British Museum, London, UK

 

See more of Cedric Morris's work here

 

Bridgeman Images | Image. It’s Everything

Are you looking to license art, culture and historical images? Bridgeman Images offers the highest resolution rights managed images for licensing. Please contact us for free image research or to learn more.


Back to top