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.
[from] Works Past 1976 [P11126-P11130]
Five etchings with aquatint and spitbite, various sizes, from a suite of six on cream wove paper, various sizes; printed by J.C. Editions and published by Bernard Jacobson Ltd in an edition of 20 plus 6 artist's proofs
Each inscribed ‘Ivor Abrahams 76’ below image b.r. and ‘AP 2/6’ below image b.l., except P 11127 which is inscribed as above but has ‘AP 1/6’ below image b.l.; each blindstamped with the printer's stamp ‘JC’, doubled as in a mirror image, b.r.
This series commemorates earlier works, drawings, prints and sculptures, made by the artist. Abrahams chose each image with a view to how well it would relate to the etching process. However, all the prints have a near abstract quality: texture and atmosphere predominate over descriptive detail.
The prints were experimental works. Abrahams worked on the plates at his studio in Pézenas, in the
Languedoc region of France, preparing his own grounds and taking trial proofs using his own press (see entries on P11131-P11141). The plates were then processed and printed in London.
P11126 Works Past I 1976
Etching with aquatint and spitbite 274 × 200 (10 3/4 × 7 7/8) on cream wove paper 483 × 373 (19 × 14 5/8)
Printed in blue, ‘Works Past I’ shows a dark form half-enveloping a stone structure. In comparison with the final proof state printed by the artist, the image appears to have a greater variety of tone, and the background shows evidence of working.
The image relates to sculptures of ivy-clad walls. One such is ‘Bronze Wall’, 1976, which is reproduced in one catalogue with a quotation from Chris Battye, a poet and painter, ‘a stone wall almost entirely overgrown with verbiage. A simple divider overcome by that it sought to divide’ (repr. Ivor Abrahams, exh. cat., Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield 1984, p.7). This theme of the partial envelopment of a hard, sculptural entity by an amorphous, organic form recurs frequently in Abrahams work, and can be traced back to an early sculpture, ‘Tableau historique’, 1963–8 (repr. Ivor Abrahams: Environments, Skulpturen, Zeichnungen, Komplette Graphiken, exh. cat., Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne 1973, p.28), in which part of a classical temple is set in an inchoate massy form.
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996