Catherine Yarrow

Page 1


Front Cover: Triangular Tower, c. 1960 stoneware, 25 x 18 x 18 cm (CY-0007)

Below: Pyramids, c. 1960 stoneware, heights: 11.5, 8 & 5.5 cm tall



Private View

Tuesday 22 January, 6-8pm


23 January - 14 February

Catherine Yarrow lived, worked and exhibited in Paris between the two world wars and in New York in the 1940s before returning to Britain in 1948. In the early 1960s she set up her workshop/studio in a mews cottage in St John’s Wood, London, where she built several primitive ‘real-fire’ (wood, coke and oil) kilns in her garden and continued to work as a painter, printmaker, ceramics sculptor and potter until her death in 1990.

15 Royal Arcade 28 Old Bond Street London W1S 4SP

+44 (0) 20 7491 1706

“I simply am an artist and one of my métiers is clay.” “It wasn’t until I came to the pottery that I had any craft. And that’s why it was enormously important for me in the early thirties. I don’t know what possessed me to take up pottery because it wasn’t in the least bit fashionable – Picasso hadn’t started pottery – I just wanted to do it. I had great help from everybody; Max Ernst, too. He thought it was marvellous “Catherine would do pottery”. He was dying to come and do it with me. And Arp used to drop in and out all the time; they never looked upon it as anything inferior, at all. “I had a wonderful teacher, Spanish – Josep LlorénsArtigas (1892 – 1980). He didn’t want me at all. But I wanted him and I finally got him to teach me. But no love affair over all of this and that was a great relief. He used to tell me: ‘Go into the garden and get an old brick and pound it down and put it into the clay.’ All my clay – I do things to it. I put in grog: broken up bits of old pottery, bits of iron.

Small Bowl with ‘Fabulous Beast’, c. 1945 red clay, 6 x 16 cm (CY-0018)

These are ways of bringing the clay to life. “First of all he didn’t want me there more than once a week; then twice a week. I finished up by going everyday and bringing him home to lunch and so on and so forth. This is how it was in Paris. I’m very indebted to ‘Pepito’ (Artigas); it absolutely changed my life – this pottery, this occupation and the craft.” Catherine Yarrow in conversation with the film-maker Raj Kothari: extracts from a tape-recorded conversation in 1987

Untitled, 1960s mixed media, 42.5 x 51 cm (CY-0055)

Dish, c. 1960 stoneware, 7.5 x 25 x 21 cm (CY-0015)

I first heard about Catherine Yarrow from Ewen Henderson who had been greatly influenced by her. In his later years, Ewen became increasingly dismissive about nearly everyone working in clay. Yarrow was one of the very few exceptions. Anyone who can remember the Crafts Council exhibition, “Pandora’s Box” will recall what a big impact her work had. Two years ago I discovered that her estate contained a large quantity of works on paper. I was, to say the least, sceptical about what these might be like. Several of my favourite painters have exhibited ceramics that were exceptionally disappointing. And the number of British potters who have produced paintings that have risen above the mediocre could probably be counted on one hand.

Dish with Symbols, c. 1975 stoneware, 8 x 35.5 x 33.5 cm (CY-0009)

What a surprise it was to discover how exciting her painted work is. From the post-Klee self-portraits of the 1930s to the beautiful watercolours of the 70s and early 80s, the work is technically good, usually highly original and, despite the changes in style, always very much her. The disturbing edginess that lurks behind the superficial loveliness of her pictures invites comparison with two other English “roses” who were also in the Surrealist circle in the 1930s, Leonora Carrington and Paule Vézelay. Paul Rice, Art Dealer

“Catherine influenced and inspired many of those who visited and spent time with her to develop their own creativity. Her natural ‘prompt’ was to draw and paint. She supported visitors with a patience and an openness that allowed them to forget earlier doubts or the damage of schooling; she gave them ‘permission’ (her words) to find their own creative ability. She coached younger people to ‘look and see’, to ‘draw’ from nature and allow it to enter their work. She encouraged individuals to express and give form to their own talent in their way rather than hers. While naturally orientated to art, Catherine supported expression in other media, such as photography, music, writing, poetry, gardening and cooking. Many of the younger people who worked with her went on to creative work of their own. Inspired by her ability, her lifestyle and expression in older age, I went on to research and teach about the development of creativity, particularly in women, and in the process of ageing.” Dr Piers Worth Lecturer in Psychology at Buckinghamshire New University

Untitled, 1960s watercolour, 50 x 57.5 cm (CY-0060)

Dish with Bird, c. 1960 stoneware, 5 x 21.5 cm (CY-0010)

Untitled, 1963 pastel, 27 x 35.5 cm (CY-0069)

“Catherine Yarrow’s influence on me and my way of working is immense. I knew nothing at all about the art world when I first arrived in London in the late 1960’s. It was exciting and romantic to be in this new milieu where discussions about art, music, poetry, life in all its aspects, flowed freely. Catherine did everything – drawing, painting, and potting; cooking, sewing, gardening; clothes, leather work and shoe-making, with the skills of a master craftswoman and the eyes of an artist. One of the many valuable lessons she taught me happened when my first attempt at making a pot looked to be doomed. “No, no” Catherine said, “this is a happy accident! Now you can create something quite different.” I have offered this wisdom many times.” Sally Kohler – helped Catherine build and fire kilns as well as learning all aspects of clay work from the ‘Master’ “Catherine watched me work for five years without saying anything about the quality of my results. This sort of education is very rare. Most education is certificate ridden and hoops have to be jumped through within a verified time frame. It was difficult for me to understand her teaching methods at first but eventually I felt that I was ‘growing’ from inside. I have not found another teacher who worked on that level, nor have I met another who watched so quietly, waiting.” Cecile Elstein - Private pupil of Catherine Yarrow from 1964 - 1969

Dish with Incised Face and Birds, 1930s stoneware, 10.5 x 20 cm (CY-0024)

“I’ve done some extraordinary drawings and some more, even more extraordinary paintings – “not a bit like you” you will say – and who knows who I am like? Or you? We are constant surprises to ourselves; it is the perpetual surprises which bring life; the amazing opposites, the balance, the contradiction, without which everything would stop.” June 1964: Catherine Yarrow - extract from a letter to her friend, student and confrère, Janet Allan, who continues to work in the same spirit as Catherine, making and exhibiting high fired stoneware from her 15th century home in Suffolk.

Self-portrait, 1960s watercolour, 38.5 x 38 cm (CY-0035)

Above: Untitled, 1969 mixed media, 38 x 38.5 cm (CY-0031)

Right: Cylindrical Vase & Rectangular Dish, c. 1955 stoneware, 19.5 x 11 & 2.5 x 15.5 x 6.5 cm (CY-0002 & CY-0003)

Left: Bowl with Blue Pool, c. 1978 stoneware, 6.5 x 12.5 cm (CY-0013)

Below: Bowl with Fish & Symbol, c. 1985 stoneware, 9.5 x 17 cm (CY-0019)

“. . . the most profound act of creation – her life – continues to affect others via those she met and taught. This affect ripples outwards. Is this the true outcome or output of a ‘work of art’, its affect on people, individuals in relationship with the work and the artist? I have come to believe so, given that what I learnt from Catherine accompanies me every day in my work with students and other groups, and remains her gift to me, and others.” Catherine Yarrow – A Biography (2011), by Piers Worth

Dish with Fish & Star, c. 1985 stoneware, 7.5 x 21.5 cm (CY-0017)

‘I am no ordinary woman My hair stands on end It twines round the Vines crocuses sprout from my knees Bay leaves from my chest I am tired I am old I am reborn I am relieved I am lonely and sad I am somnolent and grey I am full of yellow and sun.’

Untitled, 1950s ink drawing, 31.5 x 25.5 cm

Catherine Yarrow From “Imaginary Love Letter” Clover Towers, Burnt Hill December 19th 1956


Erskine, Hall & Coe would like to thank the following people for their generous help and assistance in making this exhibition possible: MaryAnn Ephgrave (Executor of the Estate of Catherine Yarrow) Cecile Elstein, Sally Kohler, Raj Kothari, Paul Rice, Piers Worth The exhibition will be fully illustrated on our website

Above: Hanging Rounds with Symbols, c. 1975 stoneware, 42 x 13.5 cm (CY-0028)

Back Cover: Untitled, 1960s watercolour, 51.5 x 34 cm (CY-0049)

photography by Michael Harvey printed at SPM Print design by fivefourandahalf © Erskine, Hall & Coe Ltd, 2013 Gallery Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 10am-6pm Saturdays (during exhibitions only): 10am-6pm