In Through Utrillo’s Garden (1954), Harold Town puts forth a vivacious show of spontaneously drawn brush lines intermingled with areas of broader gestural strokes of paint. Typical of Town’s compositional process during this period, he reinforces his drawn lines with the paintbrush in several colours, creating a layered web of vertical, diagonal, and circular threads. Forms appear to emerge from beneath the drawn lines in a way that is reminiscent of the Surrealist practice of automatic drawing used by the Automatists and can also be compared to the dynamics of New York School painters such as Gorky and de Kooning.
Although the title of the painting evokes a garden scene, the palette, dominated by greys, blacks and browns, in concert with the energetic movement of the composition, suggests the hustle and bustle of a busy city street. Much of Town’s art at this time was inspired by the modern city, and streetscapes were a recurring theme for the artist. Early-twentieth-century French painter Maurice Utrillo, whose garden is depicted here, was also known for his cityscapes in similar palettes of greys, blacks and browns. Here, Utrillo’s garden is the city: Town’s painting affirms that the modern cityscape has come to replace the garden scenes of traditional painting.