Geoffrey Clarke

Woman and Child

1953

Artist
Geoffrey Clarke 1924–2014
Medium
Aquatint and varnish on paper
Dimensions
Image: 352 x 279 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented anonymously 1974
Reference
P01010

Not on display

Display caption

Clarke started to make sugar-lift aquatints in 1948. This technique involves masking areas of the etching plate with a solution of sugar and ink. It allows the artist to reproduce the marks of brush or pen and appealed to Clarke because it was spontaneous. The theme of woman and child or mother and child was one that he often returned to at that time. In 1951 he wrote, 'There are numerous forms for man, woman and child. They are various, though basically the same, because it is the artist's function to suggest, to imply, to reveal in as many ways as he can'. This theme, developed first in his prints, was also applied to his sculpture.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Geoffrey Clarke b.1924

P01010 Woman and Child 1953

Inscribed ‘Nov./53 4/50’ b.l. and ‘Geoffrey Clarke’ b.r.
Sugar aquatint varnished, 13¿ x 11 (35.3 x 28) on paper 17¿ x 13¿ (43.5 x 34.6).
Presented anonymously 1974.

Unless otherwise stated the information for this and the following two entries was given to the compiler by the artist in letters of 13 May and 18 August 1974.

Clarke started to make sugar aquatints in 1948 and has suggested that he represents (at least in Britain) the continuation of the sugar aquatint tradition as exemplified by Goya and Picasso (Buffon’s Histoire Naturelle). His rather personal technique, mostly dispensing with a ground, appealed to him because it was receptive to spontaneity, a feature found in his similarly personal variant of the monotype method. He worked in both media from 1948 to 1956 and ‘around 1950 started [the] interpretation of similar images in iron sculpture.’

According to the artist he did not use a ground for this print but simply etched away the rolled steel surface of a single plate. Only some of the impressions were varnished and most of the edition remained unsold.

The ‘Woman and Child’ or ‘Mother and Child’ was ‘a constant theme’ for the artist in the early fifties. In his unpublished thesis ‘Exposition of a Belief’ (Royal College of Art Library) submitted for his Associateship in 1951, there are monotype illustrations of several of his symbols for Man, Woman and Child and in the text he writes: ‘There are numerous forms for man, woman and child. They are various, though basically the same, because it is the artist’s function to suggest, to imply, to reveal in as many ways as he can. Though the subject may be similar the implication or revelation, call it the aesthetic experience, will vary both in depth and direction.’ Although it came first in his etchings, Clarke was to pick up the theme in his sculpture, and then continued to work on it in both media independently.

(One of five small etchings presented by the donor to the Archive (7.43) represents virtually the same composition as P01010, only reversed. The artist has confirmed that these were Christmas cards.)

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.

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