Edward Burra

[title not known]

1940

Part of
Wake
Medium
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 1022 x 698 mm
frame: 1120 x 792 x 36 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1940
Reference
N05166

Display caption

With the increasingly belligerent political situation of the 1930s, Burra's work took on a darker tone. This enigmatic diptych seems to speak of morbidity and decay. The shrouded figures look down on a skeleton in an open grave. In the background broken columns indicate the degradation of the building. The architecture recalls the destroyed churches that Burra photographed in Spain in 1935 and 1936. The Spanish Civil War had been especially cruel, but by the time this picture was made war had spread across Europe. Goya's 'Dark Paintings' may have been a source for such works.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Edward Burra 1905-76

Wake 1940

N05166

Gouache and wash on paper 1022 x 698 (40 1/4 x 27 1/2)

Right-hand panel of a two-sheet composition (see Wake N05165), signed in faded black ink ‘E.J. Burra | 1940’ bottom right, and inscribed in pencil ‘Sinclair | Attlee’; watermarked along left side: ‘MADE IN ENGLAND UNBLEACHED ARNOLD LINEN FIBRE 1921’

Purchased from the artist through the Zwemmer Gallery, London (Knapping Fund) 1940

Exhibited:
Surrealism Today, Zwemmer Gallery, London, June-July 1940 (11,12, as Wake I and Wake II)
Tate Gallery Wartime Acquisitions, National Gallery, London, April-May 1942 (19,20 as Wake I and Wake II)
Long term loan to Leeds City Art Gallery 1970-May 1973 (left panel, N05165, only)
Long term loan to Southend Art Gallery 1970-May 1973 (right panel, N05166, only)
Henry Moore to Gilbert and George, Palais des beaux-arts, Brussels, September-November 1973 (8, reproduced p.22)
Edward Burra, Tate Gallery, London May-July 1973 (62)
Long term loan to Arts Council, placed at Leeds City Art Gallery, February 1974-September 1976
La Planète affolée: Surréalisme, dispersion et influences, 1938-1947, Centre de la Vieille Charité, Marseille, April-June 1986 (50, reproduced p.172)
World War II, Tate Gallery Liverpool, September-November 1989 (16)

Literature:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, Tate Gallery: The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, I, London 1964, pp.84-6
John Rothestein, ‘Edward Burra as an Artist’ in William Chappell (ed.), Edward Burra: A Painter Remembered by his Friends, London 1982, p.44
‘Letters’, William Chappell (ed.), Edward Burra: A Painter Remembered by his Friends, 1982, p.100
Andrew Causey, Edward Burra: Complete Catalogue, Oxford 1985, reproduced [p.128], no.156 as ‘1939’
Art Line, vol.2, no.9, September 1985 p.22, reproduced (left sheet only)

Reproduced:
John Rothenstein, Edward Burra, Harmondsworth, 1945, reproduced [p.44] pl.28, as ‘The Wakes 1937’
Grey Gowrie, ‘The Twentieth Century’ in David Piper (ed.), The Genius of British Painting, London 1975, p.311 (left sheet only)

Note:
Wake (N05166) is the right-hand panel of a diptych. The catalogue entry for the left-hand panel, Wake (Tate N05165), discusses both works.

Tate Paper

Wild Geese Over the Mountains: Melodrama and the Sublime in the English Imaginary 1933–9

The paper traces the frequency with which familiar tropes of the sublime are used in the writing and painting of ...