Large mural painting, in the foyer of the former Faculty of Arts building. Commissioned by the University of Birmingham, 1963. Also a further small overdoor panel.
Also called: Surf, sail and sea, North Cornwall
102 x 202 in. Arts Faculty Mural
by PETER LANYON (1918-64)
Notes: Peter Lanyon's mural was commissioned in 1963 as an embellishment for the new Faculty of Arts building that had been constructed in 1960-62 to designs by Verner Rees, Laurence and Mitchell. Lanyon had lived in St Ives, Cornwall, since his birth. His vibrant, gestural and breezy paintings celebrate his native landscape, its light and weather. He explored it and travelled across it ceaselessly, coming to know its character and detail intimately.
As the painter of the University of Birmingham mural Lanyon was an inspired choice. His aim from the time of his first visit to the campus in January 1963, was to transport his airy Cornish manner of painting to land-locked Birmingham, and to create a picture for walking past, one in which people passing and re-passing in the Faculty of Arts foyer would experience an illusion of openness in which the campus landscape was extended through the building and out onto the other side.
Lanyon's first impression of the University campus was of an open hill-top sensation and a sense of being out in the country rather than in the centre of a large industrial city. From his observations of the movements of people in the foyer Lanyon saw that they turned away from the mural wall on entering the building, but walked towards it for a considerable distance when leaving. He therefore conceived the painting as a kind of prelude to the outside. Further noticing that, with exception of the Clock Tower, the University campus was characterised by horizontal buildings (the Muirhead Tower had not been built at this time), Lanyon reflected this in the abstracted subject matter of the painting.
He wrote that 'the elements of the mural have been derived from buildings and grass open spaces in the precincts of the University, while a free action of air and weather has been used to impart a sense of time, The static elements are rectangular and triangular while the dynamics are established with curves and figure of eight movements.'