James BoswellUntitled (Iraq) 1948

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Artwork details

James Boswell (1906‑1971)
Untitled (Iraq)
Date 1948
MediumOil paint on canvas
Dimensionssupport: 508 x 914 x 19 mm frame: 635 x 1040 mm
Acquisition Presented by Ruth Boswell, the artist's widow 2000
Not on display


This is one of a pair of paintings, neither of which is titled, which James Boswell painted in London based on his wartime memories of Iraq. Both this work and its partner (Tate T07600) consist of a restricted palette of red, black, white and grey. Both use unmodulated areas of these non-naturalistic colours, and a stark and spikey mode of representation, to conjure up a sense of isolation and of the uncanny.

Here, the red foreground rises steeply to an array of man-made structures: grey stone huts, a water-tower, a signpost presumably marking a former military installation. The starkness of the scene is exaggerated by the compositional emphasis on strong horizontal and vertical lines. The darkened doorways of the austere buildings, and the simplicity of the tower, the sign and the post in the foreground, all suggest a feeling of abandonment. Two enigmatic shapes, perhaps rocks, and the remains of what appear to be palm leaves introduce a certain anxious quality that they share with the contemporaneous work of Lucian Freud… (read more)

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