Catalogue entry

Jessie Dismorr 1885–1939
T01084 ABSTRACT COMPOSITION c. 1915
Not inscribed.
Oil on composition board, 16 1/4×20 (41·5×50·5).
Purchased from Mr George Milman (Gytha Trust) 1968
Coll: Bequeathed by the artist to R H M Ody; purchased by George Milman 1965.
Exh: Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism, Tate Gallery, July–August 1956 (160); Mayor Gallery, April–May 1965 (2).

The entry in the catalogue of the Vorticist exhibition of 1956 suggests that the date of this work might be c. 1915 on the grounds of its resemblance to the artist's woodcuts in Blast No. 2 of that year (pp. 27 & 29). Certainly it is completely unlike the illustrations of 1911–12 in Rhythm in 1911 & 12, and those of 1920 (Group X) and afterwards. However, perhaps because of the different media, it appears more space-conscious, more abstract and less decorative than the woodcuts in Blast. More precisely it seems to reflect the style of Bomberg's ‘Mud Bath’ (1913–14) rather than that of Wyndham Lewis.

Although it is not yet possible to date the picture any more accurately than this, two scraps of evidence bear on the evolution of her abstract style. The three portrait studies she exhibited at the A.A.A. exhibition at the Albert Hall in 1913 are annotated in the Tate Gallery copy of the catalogue as ‘cubist’ (Lewis' works are described as ‘silly’ and Brancusi's ‘Muse Endormie’ as ‘quaint’).

In 1914 she acquired a copy of Sadler's translation of Kandinsky's ‘Über das Geistige in der Kunst’. (Information from Mr Ody, Excerpts from the same work were translated in Blast I 1914 by Wadsworth. Kandinsky showed in the A.A.A. exhibitions of 1911, 1912, 1913 and 1914.)

Published in:
The Tate Gallery: Acquisitions 1968-9, London 1969