Catalogue entry

T02064 THE REAPER (1938)

Inscribed ‘AGAR’ b.r.
Gouache and collaged leaf on paper, 8 1/4 × 11 (21 × 28)
Purchased from the artist through the New Art Centre (Grant-in-Aid) 1976
Exh: Art in Britain 1930–40, Marlborough Fine Art, March–April 1965 (3); Eileen Agar, Commonwealth Art Gallery, September–October 1971 (14); Eileen Agar, New Art Centre, June–July 1976 (23)

The following note was supplied by Eileen Agar, in response to a letter from the compiler and followed up in conversation on 29 July 1978.

'The leaf came from a “dry garden”, a book I have which dries and preserves leaves pressed between special paper. It was dead originally when used for the collage, but it was one I must have picked myself. The whole watercolour was intended to suggest a symbolic reaper with the flailing movement of the scythe-like concentric forms. The title indeed relates to time, the seasons and especially death the Great Reaper. The dead leaf being the hub of the whole.

‘Time is expressed more especially by the large black sun, which at the bottom left hand corner is sinking. The little triangle suggests a country roof and the two black spots two people riding the machine. There is also the outline of the back of a cow, with the small forelegs implanted on either side of the stem of the leaf.’

The gouache is mounted on a blue ground, and the frame originally chosen by the artist was an old one, painted in silver and gold. Asked whether the mount and frame (the gilding is now somewhat worn and faded) were intended to form part of the total image, Miss Agar alluded to her practice of using ‘found’ elements at this period: ‘The frame... was more or less in that state when I found it, and though I considered changing it for a newer one, I decided against it. I mounted it on a piece of blue paper at the time. Otherwise than its seeming to belong to the watercolour, it had no special significance.’ She agreed, however, that insofar as both could evoke secondary associations with the image - for example of the sun or sky - the frame and mount formed part of it.

‘The Reaper’ has always been in the artist's possession and was not exhibited before the 1965 Marlborough Fine Art show Art in Britain 1930–1940.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979