Ivor Abrahams

Sundial II (Winter)


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Not on display
Ivor Abrahams 1935–2015
Screenprint on paper
Image: 1016 x 1195 mm
Presented by Evelyne Abrahams, the artist's wife 1986

Catalogue entry

Group of ninety-eight screenprints, lithographs and etchings, various sizes [P11099-P11196; incomplete]

Presented by Evelyne Abrahams, the artist's wife 1986

This group of prints was bequeathed to Evelyne Abrahams by the artist's parents, Harry and Rachel Abrahams, on the understanding that she would present it to the Tate Gallery on their behalf. It represents the greater part of the artist's printmaking to date. Other works by Abrahams in the collection are a sculpture entitled ‘Lady in a Niche’, 1973 (T03369), a work on paper entitled ‘Winter Sundial’, 1975 (T02330), and a small number of prints: ‘The Garden Suite’, 1970 (P04001-P04005), ‘Sundial I (Summer)’, 1975 (P07384) and ‘Untitled’ [from the artist's book Oxford Gardens: A Sketchbook], 1977 (P08150).

Abrahams is primarily a sculptor, and many of his prints relate to particular sculptures. In the period 1967–79 Abrahams focused on garden imagery, exploring the relationship between art, artifice and nature. Many of the images used in early prints were based on small, relatively poor quality photographs of gardens reproduced in gardening magazines, such as the weekly Amateur Gardening and Popular Gardening, or, less frequently, better quality illustrations found in the series of volumes on gardens published by Country Life in the 1920s. This use of second-hand source material gives much of his printed output a conceptual quality, and links his work to Pop art. Abrahams has presented a large amount of source material relating to his printmaking of this period, including magazine clippings, photographs and sketches and acetate stencils, to the Tate Gallery Archive (TGA 8315).

The critical and commercial success of ‘The Garden Suite’ (P04001-P040054), published in 1970, helped establish Abrahams' name internationally, and in the following decade he went on to produce a significant body of prints, making approximately one print a month. The dealer Bernard Jacobson published many of his portfolios, and the Mayor Gallery organised a series of touring shows of prints and sculptures. In this period Abrahams was based in London, working at a studio in Leonard Street, EC2, from 1969 to 1982, and at the A & A Foundry in Bow from 1982 to 1992, with a second studio at Butler's Wharf from 1974 to 1979.

In 1979 Abrahams abandoned the garden theme for which he had become well known and focused instead on water-based imagery, using bathers and nymphs which were inspired in part by the landscape, myths and folk customs associated with the South of France. Abrahams and his French wife bought a home in Pézenas, in the Languedoc, in 1973, where he used the cellar as a studio. In 1988 they bought a house in the small village, Castelnau de Guers, in the same region, and have lived there on a full-time basis since 1992.

Unless otherwise stated, all quotations by the artist in the following entries are taken from a taped interview with the compiler held on 18 August 1994. The entries have been approved by the artist.

P11118 Sundial II (Winter) 1975

Screenprint 1016 × 1195 (40 × 47) on wove paper, same size; printed by Chris Betambeau at Advanced Graphics and published by Bernard Jacobson Ltd; one of 15 artist's proofs aside from the edition of 95
Inscribed ‘Ivor Abrahams 75’ b.r. and ‘AP.’ b.l.
Repr: Ivor Abrahams: The Garden Image, exh. cat., Bolton Museum and Art Gallery 1984, p.11, as ‘Winter Sundial’ (unspecified impression)

‘Sundial II (Winter)’ was made shortly after the artist had completed the closely related ‘Sundial I (Summer)’, 1975, a relief print with collage and flocking, of the same height and width (P07384, repr. Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1978–80, 1981, p.277).

The image used in both works was based on a small, poor quality illustration of the sundial, its stone steps, and surrounding lawns and shrubbery, found in a popular gardening magazine. Abrahams initially considered the image as a possible source for the 1970 ‘Privacy Plots’ suite of prints (see previous entries on P11101-P11105), but decided that it did not suit the series. In 1971 he began work on ‘Sundial I (Summer)’, producing a number of preparatory drawings. The illustration was rephotographed, enlarged and worked upon by the artist (for example, small trees in the upper left were removed), and proofs were prepared. In 1974 Abrahams returned to this project, which he now envisaged as an extremely large print, and completed work on it in 1975. As an afterthought, he considered making a winter version. In a preparatory study for this he painted with acrylic on an early proof of the screenprint (‘Winter Sundial’, T02330, 702 × 838 mm, repr. Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1978–80, 1981, p.55). He had thought of incorporating collage and flocking, as in ‘Sundial I (Summer)’, but eventually decided against it. The colours of the preparatory study are close to those of the final screenprint. In both cases the monochrome photographic image is subtly coloured, while the shrubbery to the right is treated with large areas of dark green and blue.

The contrast offered between the wintry scene in P11118 and its pair, the verdant ‘Sundial I (Summer)’, is extreme. A similar theme can be found in the pair of relief prints, ‘For a Time, For a Season’, which have as subtitles ‘Summer’ and ‘Autumn’ (repr. Ivor Abrahams: Environments, Skulpturen, Zeichnungen, Komplette Graphiken, exh. cat., Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne 1973, p.80, nos.19–20).

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996

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