Soaring Flight: Peter Lanyon's Gliding Paintings
15 October 2015 – 17 January 2016
Exploring a remarkable series of paintings by the British post-war artist.
One of the St Ives artists, Peter Lanyon often spoke of his desire to experience the landscape as fully as possible. In 1956, while taking a walk across a high cliff top, he saw three gliders soaring overhead and decided to try it for himself. By 1960 he was flying solo.
His love of gliding had a profound influence on his artwork. Like the rest of the St Ives group he wanted to find new and exciting ways of capturing the surrounding landscape, just as JMW Turner had done in the 19th century.
His gliding paintings bring together the multiple perspectives he enjoyed in flight, uniquely encompassing the land, sky and sea. He based the compositions on movements, textures and forces of the air, hoping to recreate the thrill of gliding in paint.
The series was considered a significant achievement of 20th-century art, reinventing the tradition of landscape painting in ways that chimed with the increasingly existentialist view of the post-war world.
Tragically the project was cut short by Lanyon’s unexpected death in August 1964 – the result of injuries he sustained in a gliding accident. Fifteen of these seminal works go on display at The Courtauld Gallery, in what is the first ever exhibition devoted solely to the artist’s gliding paintings.