Garden, Fort-St. André in Villeneuve-les Avignons, 1962. Photo JF.
Cypress Alley, 1963/64, oil
Moon Alley, 1969, oil

We were in the wonderful garden inside the Fort-St. André in Villeneuve-les Avignons for the first time in the summer of 1962.

The photograph was taken then, probably but not certainly by me. (You can tell for sure which of us took the vertical pictures, but not the horizontal ones, for we held the camera differently). The print was in a box in her studio, and a thumb-tack hole in the top left corner suggests that at some point she pinned it to a wall or to the top of a work table.

The large oil that I have called “Cypress Alley” (the slide is untitled) would have been done after we were back in Halifax. No sketches remain.

I am pretty sure that she used the photo as an aide-memoire, an aid to memory. So you can see the kind of transforming that went on—the simplifying of forms, deepening of perspective, strengthening of diagonals, addition of entirely un-Provençal clouds.

And in Moon Alley we have a further intensification, and an example of something that has struck me about her dealings with Provence, namely her concern to essentialize it. Here, as in Garden Diagram (1965) and Figs and Olives (1965-67) she passed firmly beyond literalism in her rendering of that region that we loved.

The relatively early dates of Garden Diagram and Figs and Olives should be noted too. She did not (as one account has it) simply swerve away in the mid-Sixties from increasingly thickly painted landscapes to the more schematized “ecological” works that predominated in the Seventies. And she was working on Moon Alley in 1968, which is to say in the same year in which she began the breakthrough figure painting Grandparents I.

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