Press for the 1989 show

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Emily Patrick, Thomas Agnew and Sons

The Independent May 1989 by Geraldine Norman

Patrick’s pictures are mostly autobiographical. She has just had a baby, who features in many canvases. She has spent most of her life in the country and paints landscapes and jugs of flowers from the garden. She also paints her husband asleep. Her style is essentially impressionist, but while the nineteenth century Frenchmen sought an objective rendering of the play of light, she conveys her own subjective pleasure in it.

Her mother and baby pictures are as good as Mary Cassatt, the American specialist in the genre, and her flower pieces are good enough to stand comparison with Fantin-Latour class, though very different.

Arts Review May 1989 by Jane Norrie

The artist’s career has followed an unusual path, beginning with a period of tutelage under John Doyle and then of John Ward. After studying architecture at Cambridge she moved to London to concentrate fulltime on painting. It seems that this somewhat unorthodox training has been to her advantage, letting her find her own means of expression regardless of art school fashion. Supposition apart her achievements are considerable - her first solo show with Agnew's in 1986 was a total sellout and recently she won the The Royal Society of Portrait Painter’s Carroll Prize for the most promising under 30’s portrait.

In this prolific show, her subjects are classical, portraits, including the Mother and Child which won the Carroll award, still life and flowers, and interiors. Working on wood with gesso, and letting the subject dictate the style, she brings to her themes an intriguing variation of treatment underpinned by a sureness of touch. The mood of the subject also dictates the frame, soft mellifluous harmonies of flowers being framed in rope, and more ‘serious’ works in lustred painted frames intended as abstract extensions of the pictures themselves.

The still lives and interiors are generally handled with a soft, hazy, sensuous delicacy, as in Feathers in a Teacup, stopping us in our tracks with the joy of beautiful things observed. Sometimes this softness comes more closely into focus as in the small gem Hands (the artist drawing in a sketch book) and at other times as in Two Chairs and Hat it rises to a rich heightened romanticism. For such a large display (some 100 works), with a few inevitable exceptions, the quality is remarkably consistent, reaching a highpoint in the complicated composition Still-Life with Paintings and Postcards. At the other end of the spectrum Canadian Geese is a much stronger orchestration of curving black contours against a semi-abstract beautifully modulated ground.

Coming to the portraits, the best are hallmarked by a greater clarity and by a strong emotion. At one point you come upon Michael in Yao Costume imbued with a distinctly old-masterly resonance. At another there is Family of Three, father, mother and baby under an umbrella, which has an almost Renoiresque feeling of affection for the subject. The colour and composition are stunning: the brooding expression of the mother in contrast to the openness of the child. Here, as thoughout, we have sentiment without sentimentality.