47 1/4 x 38 1/4 in
Private Collection, UK
2017, London, Piano Nobile, Peter Coker: Mind and Matter, 5 April - 13 May 2017, cat. no. 7, col. ill. p. 29.
David Wootton with contributions by John Russell Taylor and Richard Humphreys, Peter Coker RA (Chris Beetles Ltd, 2002), cat. rais. no. 69, p. 120.
A. Lambirth and C. Etter, A monographic exploration of Peter Coker's 1958-9 'Sunflowers' (Piano Nobile Publications, 2012).
Sunflowers is monumental in scale, echoing the statuesque sunflower, though Coker always had a predisposition towards the grandiose, heightening effect through literal aggrandisement. A generous bunch of stems sits in a vase, the yellow heads and rich green of the foliage offset by the umber background, the autumnal colours fitting for the typical blooming of sunflowers in late summer. With heads bowed to the ground, as if in lament for their passing, and beginning to shrivel, the flowers have passed from glorious bloom to melancholy wilt. The symbolism of drooping, dying flowers evidently captured Coker’s imagination far more than sunflowers in full splendour. Drawn to the ominous and turbulent in landscapes, even in this joyous abundance of sunflowers, Coker asserts the inescapable synchronicity of the forces of life and death. Laden with thick oil paint applied in broad, unbroken swathes, the surface of Sunflowers is overwhelmingly smooth and impenetrable. Texture is homogenous across the painting – lush, almost glossy oil paint draws the viewer to scrutinise the surface. The sheer weight and solidity of the painting states its objecthood. As Coker argued, the “solidity…is all to do with recreating nature and making an equivalently solid object.” Paint itself - tangible matter - was the primary protagonist throughout Coker’s career.