Catalogue entry


Not inscribed
Gouache on canvas, 17 3/8×15 1/8 (44.2×38.8)
Purchased from Anthony d'Offay (Grant-in-Aid) 1975
Coll: Mrs Angelica Garnett, the artist's daughter
Exh: Vanessa Bell: Paintings and Drawings, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, November–December 1973 (14, repr. (before removal of later addition to painting)); Duncan Grant: A display to celebrate his 90th birthday, Tate Gallery, February–March 1975 (22); Duncan Grant at Ninety: A Birthday Celebration, National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, May–June 1975, (22) and subsequent showing at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, July–September 1975
Lit: Richard Morphet, introduction to catalogue of exhibition Vanessa Bell: Paintings and Drawings, Anthony d'Offay, November–December 1973; Richard Cork, Vorticism and Abstract Art in the First Machine Age, I, Origins and Development, London 1975, p.276, repr. (before removal of later addition to painting); Richard Shone, Bloomsbury Portraits, Oxford 1976, p.142, repr.

Duncan Grant told the compiler (conversation 28 May 1976) that in about 1914 and 1915 he and Vanessa Bell each executed ‘a small number, not many’ of abstract works, among which was T01935 by Vanessa Bell. Grant did not remember who was the first of the two of them to paint an abstract work.

Two other abstract paintings on canvas by Bell are known, one (38×27 1/2 in) somewhat damaged, belonging to the artist's daughter Mrs Angelica Garnett, has rectilinear elements, diagonal lines, a circle and circular elements; the other, an unfinished work on the back of a portrait also by Bell, was seen at Charleston by a member of the Tate Gallery staff on 30 September 1969. Two abstract collages by Bell, both with rectilinear elements are reproduced by Richard Shone (op.cit pp.146 and 147).

There are no inscriptions on the back of ‘Abstract Painting’ to indicate which is the top, bottom, or sides of the work. However, the direction of the brush strokes indicates the vertical when the painting was executed. Furthermore the slightly thicker paint layer at the ends of the rectilinear areas suggests which was the lower side of the canvas when executed. These findings were confirmed by Duncan Grant. After the artist's death a white spot (shown in two reproduction loc.cit.) was added to the painting, when it is not known. This was removed after acquisition by the Gallery.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978