Lot 35
  • 35

Patrick Caulfield, R.A.

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Patrick Caulfield, R.A.
  • oil on board
  • 152 by 158cm.; 60 by 62in.
  • Executed in 1964.


Robert Fraser Gallery, London, where acquired by Colin St John Wilson, 22nd August 1968 for £350
Acquired from the above by Situation, London, 20th September 1972 for £1,200
Waddington Galleries, London, where re-acquired by Colin St John Wilson, 10th May 1976 for £2,000
Acquired from the above by Waddington & Tooth Galleries, London, June 1978
Waddington Graphics, London, where re-acquired by Colin St John Wilson, October 1979 for £2,500


Christopher Finch, Patrick Caulfield, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1971, p.19, illustrated pl.7;
Andrea Schlieker, Marco Livingstone et. al., 'Patrick Caulfield, Paintings 1963-1992,' Art & Design, no.27, 1992, illustrated;
Marco Livingstone, Patrick Caulfield Paintings, Lund Humphries, Aldershot, 2005, p.285, illustrated p.117.

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1964, at the height of the Pop Art movement with which Caulfield was closely associated, this stylized and highly formal arrangement of timeless still life elements and geometric devices strongly supports the artist’s insistence that he sought to distance himself from the self-consciously contemporary imagery and techniques employed by his colleagues. Rather than looking to America for inspiration and to the consumerist post-war culture that was taking hold closer to home, he set his sights unfashionably on French Modernist painting of the 1920s, including the Cubism of Juan Gris and Fernand Léger and the Purism of Amédée Ozenfant and Le Corbusier. From Léger he developed the notion of the ‘object type’, by which everyday objects acquire a symbolic aura, and a flat linear description of three-dimensional forms; he looked to Gris for the interlocking of still-life imagery with the formal resolution of the flat shapes by which the component parts are identified; and from Purism he learned the virtues of planar arrangements of familiar objects, pared down to shapes conveying their essencial character, exuding calm and a classical serenity. Defiantly at odds with many of his peers, through his romantic attachment to early 20th-century European painting Caulfield fashioned an art that was at once formally rigorous and paradoxically expressive of mood and emotion.

 Still Life with Bottle, Glass and Drape, painted just a year after completing his studies at the Royal College of Art, is one of the most stripped down and austere of Caulfield’s early works. His pictorial wit is already much in evidence, particularly in the choice of motifs – two objects made entirely of glass –  suggestive of transparency but conveyed through flat areas of opaque paint encased in coloured outlines of uniform thickness. However genuine his homage to European forebears, the surface and method of execution are entirely his own: there is both a self-effacing quality and a breathtaking confidence in the choice of household gloss paint, a ‘non-art’ medium, and in the simplified forms suggestive of the straightforward functional purpose of sign-painting.

 Still in his late twenties when this masterpiece of concision was painted, Caulfield here, as in other works of 1963-4, favoured a format that was just off-square to test his, and the viewer’s, sensitivity to the precision of placement and proportion across the surface. There is much play of symmetry against asymmetry, of stasis versus dynamism, that holds one’s attention in a trance-like state. The imagery, too, pulls in two directions, given the extreme restraint with which each element is represented – the shape of the vessels, the improbably rigid consistency of the highlights – and the subliminal triggers to the pleasures of drinking and intoxication. The glass and bottle are both shown as empty vessels, yet the rich, soft-edged green triangles that fill the V-shapes in the upper-left quadrant instill memories of fluid being poured into a void. In reminding the viewer of the transformation of liquid paint into solid form, and of those ‘abstract’ shapes into representations of familiar objects and substances, Caulfield celebrates the imaginative power of painting itself.

 Marco Livingstone

The following work has been requested by the Tate Gallery, London to be included in their forthcoming Patrick Caulfield exhibition, from 5th June to 8th September 2013.