Joint exhibitions celebrate Cedric Morris

The painter and plantsman is the subject of shows at the Garden Museum and Philip Mould & Company

Sir Cedric Morris, ‘May Flowering Irises No. 2’, 1935, oil on canvas. Image © Philip Mould & Company/courtesy the Cedric Morris Estate

Two major exhibitions, held concurrently at the Garden Museum and Philip Mould & Company, will celebrate the life and work of the British artist Cedric Morris (1889–1982), who is unique among his contemporaries for having achieved renown as both a painter and a plantsman. An influential member of the British avant-garde movement, Morris is remembered for his original approach to flower painting, having introduced aspects of the Surrealist and Cubist styles to the tradition. 

Sir Cedric Morris, ‘Cotyledon and Eggs’, 1944, oil on canvas. Image © Colchester Art Society/courtesy the Cedric Morris Estate

The Garden Museum will present the first display of Morris’ work in more than three decades, in an exhibition that explores how the artist combined a passion for painting with a fascination with horticulture to produce his visionary flower paintings. At Benton End, the home in Suffolk he shared with his partner Arthur Lett-Haines, Morris tended lovingly to his collection of plants and blooms, which included more than 90 new varieties of iris, experimental edibles and rare species he had found in the wild. At the same time as he was nurturing these specimens, he was giving them a second life on canvas in his signature expressionist style, which stood out from the more geometric work of his contemporaries. Morris also left an important legacy through his teaching, having founded the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in 1937 and taught pupils including Lucian Freud and Maggi Hambling. 

Sir Cedric Morris, ‘Olive Trees’, 1926, Island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia, Northern Africa, oil on canvas. Image © Philip Mould & Company

Meanwhile, the Philip Mould & Company exhibition will present 20 of Morris’ landscapes, painted at home and abroad. A lesser-known body of work than his flower paintings but crucial in understanding his varied approach, the pieces exude vitality, whether they depict the olive groves of Tunisia, the hill towns of Italy or the countryside cottages of Suffolk. A consummate traveller, Morris took constant inspiration from his journeys around the world, documenting them in paint and often collecting exotic plant species.

Sir Cedric Morris, ‘Pill Mill and Black Headed Gulls’, 1929, Babergh, Suffolk, England, oil on canvas. Image: © Philip Mould & Company

Together, the exhibitions reassert Morris’ importance in the British artistic canon and shed new light on an individual whose symbiotic interests triggered creative brilliance.

‘Cedric Morris: Artist Plantsman’ at the Garden Museum and ‘Cedric Morris: Beyond the Garden Wall’ at Philip Mould & Company both run from 18 April to 22 July.

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