Obituary: Peter Greenham

Richard Morphet
Tuesday 14 July 1992 23:02 BST

IN A PERIOD when unprecedented importance was attached to the bold and innovative statement in art, Peter Greenham exemplified the persistence and vitality of a significant and quieter strain in British painting that made no radical break with tradition, writes Richard Morphet (further to the obituary by Bernard Dunstan, 13 July).

A seeming reticence was the vehicle for an unshakeable conviction in the primacy of observation and in the capacity of the simplest means to conjure both physical reality and states of mind and of feeling. For the viewer, Greenham's commitment to the process of creating a just and enduring image becomes itself a subject, the clarity of each touch of the brush seeming to expose a painting's development, stage by stage. A sense of the length and concentration of this process, even of its passion, induces in the viewer a corresponding concentration and alertness of looking. As Greenham wrote of Giacometti, he was himself 'an artist whose limitation was his strength'.

A special gift was his ability to relate people to place, whether in the creation of an intimate, psychologically charged space for the sitter or in the sense of interaction in a shared environment. This last quality is seen to apt effect in his 7ft-wide painting in the Tate of a life class and takes on a particular intensity in paintings of his family. Happily, Greenham was able to see the current exhibition at Mompesson House, Salisbury, of 20 years' work by his wife, Jane Dowling. While dissimilar in both appearance and method, the two artists' paintings share a quality of affirmation and revelation.

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