Five summer paintings

  • 9 July 2014

Monaco-upon-Avon, unexpected rain, and a pair of Pollocks – discover five paintings on display across the UK that capture the atmosphere of summer.

1. Vincent van Gogh, A Wheatfield with Cypresses, 1889
National Gallery, London

Rarely has a static canvas been filled with more movement than in Vincent van Gogh's rendition of a field near Arles. The painting at the National Gallery was one of three he created during a stay at the St-Rémy mental asylum, where he was kept as a patient for a year from May 1889. In the summer of 2011 the painting was brought to life as a living canvas outside the National Gallery, when the picture was recreated using 8,000 plants of more than 25 varieties.

​2. Frank Wootton, Torquay, 1950
National Railway Museum, North Yorkshire

The British coast has never looked more glamorous than in the British Railways posters of the post-war period. The brushes of artists like Alan Durman and Merville transformed seaside destinations from Weston-super-Mare to Ramsgate into sun-drenched vistas to rival the best beaches of California or the Mediterranean. Frank Wootton's painting makes Torquay look like Monaco-upon-Avon, a harbour populated by elegant yachts with regal architecture lining its verdant hills.

3. Fred Pollock, Firefly Summer, 1991
Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent

Born in Glasgow in 1937 and educated at the city's School of Art, Fred Pollock creates high-impact abstract canvases that balance powerful blocks of colour with deceptive subtlety. In Firefly Summer, Pollock captures the feel of a summer's day with nothing more than thickly layered strokes of reds, oranges and greens. Despite operating in the traditionally high-brow world of abstraction, Pollock resists intellectual overanalysis. When an interviewer asked him whether his 'compositional structure was simplified to a degree, so that the colour can operate as free from that structure as possible', Pollock responded: 'No, I’ve got no idea what you're talking about'.

4. Jackson Pollock, Summertime: Number 9A, 1948 
Tate Liverpool

No relation of Fred Pollock, Jackson Pollock was more concerned with depicting the rhythms of the artist's inner world than the colours of the external world. Painted following the artist's move from New York City to Long Island, the swirls and webs sprawling across this five-metre-wide canvas captured the energy, motion and inner drive that the summertime inspired in Pollock. Some commentators have suggested that the canvas hides a frieze of figures under the abstract surface.

5. Charles Edward Perugini, A Summer Shower, 1888
Ferens Art Gallery, Hull

Originally called Carlo Perugini anglicising his name later in life, Charles Edward Perugini was born and trained in Italy, developing his technique in the light of Mediterranean summers. In A Summer Shower, he shows three women taking shelter beneath a tree after their badminton match is interrupted by rain. The hat in the central figure's hand suggests the group hadn't anticipated rain, while the rudimentary racquet shows how far sporting equipment has come since the late 19th century.

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