Edward Bullmore

Transition No. 4


oil on board
595mm x 765mm

signed EB in graphite lower right

Provenance

Acquired from Canterbury Gallery, Christchurch.

Essay

Bullmore’s painting Transition No. 4 is dated 1961, from the outset of his time in London. It shows a continuation of concerns he had grappled with before leaving New...

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Estimate $25,000 - $35,000

Edward Bullmore

Transition No. 4

oil on board

signed EB in graphite lower right

595mm x 765mm

Auction N˚1

Estimate $25,000 - $35,000

Transition No. 4

by Ruth Watson

Bullmore’s painting Transition No. 4 is dated 1961, from the outset of his time in London. It shows a continuation of concerns he had grappled with before leaving New Zealand and possibly some of the influence from an intervening six months in Florence, where he had gone to study with Pietro Annigoni (well known for his romantic 1956 portrait of Queen Elizabeth). Annigoni was no radical, in fact the oppsosite; yet Bullmore’s desire to work under his tutorage may have derived from pre-existing fascination for tropes of the early Renaissance within Zealand art. These ranged from the iconographic, such as the rock formations in Leo Bensemann’s 1937 portrait of Rita Angus, or borrowing a daring conceit of early Renaissance artists – shifting Biblical scenes to local landscapes (such as McCahon’s setting the Crucifixion and other related scenes against New Zealand hills in the late 1940s and early 1950s).

Transition No. 4 shows a large, Promethean head in profile, looking to our left, chin resting on fist in a pensive gesture. Both head and arm emerge from a desert-like landscape that also sports the unusual rock formations, flower heads, architectural ruins, sun-bleached trees (or bones?) and the silhouette of a small figure, seemingly staring back at the monumental head. The transition between the ruins and the head is covered with a red rain, not unlike some kind of vertical clouds, occluding a partially-seen moon; the head therefore looks calmly, but still actively, towards the day. Given Bullmore’s later engagement with other current events (his 1962 Cuba Crisis series, the space age connotations of the Astroforms), Transition No. 4 could be an early comment on the post-War Europe he encountered at the turn of the decade.

The thoughtful posture echoes Rodin’s famous thinker, but also harks back to Bullmore’s own astonishing Self Portrait of 1959. The painting is serene when compared to others in the series, such as Transition No. 6, which features figures tumbling from staircases and panicked, grasping hands. There is something of De Chirico here, but Bullmore allows the gaze of the giant head, directed somewhere beyond the painting’s frame to dominate the image. The work also has a sunnier outlook than much European painting of the post-War era, exhibiting a brushier, freer painting style than Bullmore had formerly employed. The work could indeed be said to be in transition to what was to come.