Catalogue entry

T03054 CONSTRUCTION ON A LINE 1937

Inscribed ‘N. GABO’ low down, at corner
Perspex, 17 3/4 ×17 × 3 1/2 (45 × 43 × 9)
Purchased from Mrs Lois Ventris (Grant-in-Aid) 1979
Prov: Mrs Dora Ventris, London (purchased from the artist through the London Gallery 1938); Michael Ventris, London; Mrs Lois Ventris, London
Exh: Constructions by N. Gabo, London Gallery, January 1938 (10) as ‘Construction on a Line in Space’ 1937; Naum Gabo, Tate Gallery, March–April 1966 (10); Naum Gabo: The Constructive Process, Tate Gallery, November 1976–January 1977 (61)
Lit: Herbert Read and Leslie Martin, Gabo: Constructions, Sculpture Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, 1957, p.183, pl.59 (probably a different version)
Repr: Gabo-Pevsner (exh. catalogue), Museum of Modern Art, New York 1948, p.30 (probably a different version)

Mrs Gabo remembers Naum Gabo showing her the very first tiny model for this work held up in his small pliers when they were living in London before the war, in Cholmely Gardens, where they moved in the spring of 1937 (he also showed her ‘Construction on a Plane’ at the same time). This was probably the model 10.8 cm high presented to the Tate in 1977 (T02178).

This larger work was the first version on a large scale and was included in Gabo's exhibition at the London Gallery in January 1938 as ‘Construction on a Line in Space’ 1937. It was bought there by Mrs Dora Ventris, who afterwards invited Gabo to come to her flat in Highpoint to advise her on how to display it. He returned after the visit saying what a charming but sad lady she was and that she had introduced him to her talented son, Michael. Gabo was very taken with Michael and tried to guide him in his architectural studies and it was to the Gabos, in Cornwall, that Michael came when his mother committed suicide. Michael Ventris subsequently achieved great distinction as an archaeologist by deciphering the Minoan Linear B script in 1952–3, but was killed in a car accident not long afterwards, in 1956. Gabo then decided to dedicate this sculpture to his memory.

There are further versions on the same scale in the collections of the Wadsworth Atheneum at Hartford, James Johnson Sweeney, New York, and Mrs Gabo herself, while what seems to have been yet another belonged at one time to Mies van der Rohe.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981