London 1925 – Truro 2006
Acrylic on canvas
122 x 122 cm
Signed, dated 1980 and inscribed on the canvas overlap.
Lynne Stern Associates, London, where acquired by the previous owner in 1991
Sandra Blow, Michael Bird, Lund Humphries, 2011
Sandra Blow was born in London in 1925. She spent childhood weekends and holidays in Kent on her family’s fruit farm, where she was also evacuated at the start of the Second World War. There, Blow developed a keen interest in literature and draughtsmanship, producing drawings and paintings of the local landscape as well as portraits of her family. She was particularly close to her aunt, Rose, whose encouragement resulted in Blow’s application to art schools, opening her eyes to the possibility of a career as an artist.
In 1941, at aged sixteen, Blow began studying at St Martin’s School of Art where she was taught by Vivian Pitchforth, Robin Guthrie, and Ruskin Spear, among others. In 1946 she began seven months of study at the Royal Academy Schools before travelling to Italy to pursue her academic studies.
Blow visited Florence and Rome in 1947, seeing first hand the Renaissance models frequently cited by her tutors in London. It was on this trip that she was exposed to a number of influential figures, including the Italian-American artist, Nicolas Carone (who introduced her to the theories of Hans Hofmann) and Alberto Burri.
Burri was a key artist in the Italian post-war avant-garde. The two began a romantic relationship, and travelled around Italy together. This allowed Burri the opportunity to introduce Blow to both the theory and practice of abstract art, for example, encouraging her to look past the narratives of the Renaissance frescos, instead understanding the forms, spaces, colours and shapes of the artworks.
In 1948, Blow returned to Britain to explore these new ideas in her own work. She began producing paintings on a large scale, gradually developing her own independent abstract language and becoming a prominent figure in the British abstract art movement.
Blow’s oeuvre is characterised by a monumentality of scale, in part resulting from the enduring influence of architecture and landscape on her work. There is a magnitude in her paintings regardless of size, described by the art historian Michael Bird as ‘a quality of expansiveness or unconfinedness that distinguished all phases of Blow’s art’.
Green Painting dates from a period when Blow was increasingly working with collage. Many works of the preceding decade feature a composite of materials, such as her ‘straw drawings’ from 1970, metal attachments incorporated into her Minimalist canvases of 1972 and 1973, and PVC sheeting integrated into her 1978 series of assemblages. Later, Blow would experiment with colours and shapes by temporarily stapling paper onto a canvas and tracing the shapes to achieve the desired composition. It is conceivable that this technique was used by Blow in Green Painting to determine the positioning of the central white form.
During a career that spanned six decades, Blow exhibited every year at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition from 1971 until her death in 2006, and was elected a Royal Academician in 1978. In 1994 a retrospective of her work was held at the Academy, followed by a solo exhibition at Tate Britain in 2005.