Bonfires | Flames | Smoke

A complex subject! Fire often signifies the spiritual and the flame of creativity for Richard, but conversely it represents destruction (War) and pollution (Industry) as well as joy and celebration with fireworks and candles, and even these can be fraught with a sense of danger.

The fires or plumes of smoke are often clearly visible in the paintings, but others are just specks of light or black smudges in the distance. You sometimes have to work quite hard to find them, but when you do, you realise that they are not just incidental. 

Dunkirk 1940 (c1940)

This fire represents no less than the destruction of a whole town. The men on the beach must have been terrified with nowhere to go to conceal themselves from being picked off from the air. The huge black pall of smoke emphasises the urgency of the situation.

Twelfth Night (1948)

This was a ritual carried out one year by Richard’s daughter and an older cousin, though possibly not quite as dangerously as depicted. They move with a lovely stateliness aware of the mystery that glowing candles create.

The Guy (1958)

This is an almost savage scene filled with strange characters. The woman at the front is holding a terrified cat on her shoulder. The bonfire has hardly got started but the sky beyond the wall is filled with fireworks and smoke.

136 works in this theme: