Blue Plant Study
1050 x 750 mm. (41 3/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
Among the works created during this fruitful Parisian interlude was a monumental drawing of Christian’s pregnant wife Susan, on reddish-tinted paper, entitled The Rose Drapery and today in a private collection. The present sheet, titled by the artist Blue Plant Study, was drawn at about the same time as Rose Drapery, and was intended as a pendant to it. As Christian has recollected of Blue Plant Study, it was drawn from a flowering plant known as the honesty or annual honesty (Lunaria annua), and also known colloquially in America as a silver dollar and in Southeast Asia as a money plant. The plant, which can grow up to 90 cm. high, is distinguished by its large oval leaves, with delicate purple flowers in the late spring and early summer replaced, in mid to late summer, by translucent silvery round seedpods, which are often used in dried floral arrangements.
In his memoirs, Christian has written that, ‘Although I had always had them around in the London apartment, I had never thought of drawing the dried flower called Money Plant, or Honesty. But now that drawings seemed to pour out of me by a higher hand than my own, having found some Honesty soon after we had arrived in Paris and bought some to make us feel more at home, I became obsessed with drawing it. I made two or three studies to see what “the hand” might produce and was so impressed I finally took the leap to see if I might create what would be a pair to the Rose Drapery, but on a sheet I had tinted a lovely soft blue-grey.
Even though I felt that energy working through my hand, something that could only ever be understood by another artist and even then one from probably another age, still I felt moments of nervousness as I watched one beautiful study after another appearing on my paper while realizing the slightest “wrong” line would ruin the entire drawing. But those moments were short lived, and most of the time I was simply in the almost blissful space of someone who knows he is in the process of creating something sacred. At the end of quite a long day working without a break, I had a small space left in the left hand bottom corner and couldn’t resist adding a study of a maize that I’d bought, that still had its leaves attached and then, filling the smallest space left just to finish off with a coup de grace as I felt by this point my hand could do anything, I added a stalk of wheat almost as a signature, and the drawing was at last complete. It became known as “Blue Plant Study” and did indeed join with the Rose Drapery in helping to form a small core of what I believed for many years was what Kenneth Clark had asked me for: “One of the greatest collections of drawings made by a British artist in this century.” I felt quite confident he would be more than satisfied, it just never occurred to me at that moment that I wouldn’t return to England in time to show him before [he] died. Shifting sands was a term unknown to me at that time.’
Both of the large drawings Rose Drapery and Blue Plant Study, which are of similar dimensions, were among the significant drawings and paintings - dating from throughout his career – that Anthony Christian never sold and always retained for his own collection, and which for several years were exhibited in his house-cum-studio in Bali.