Naum Gabo

Model for ‘Double Relief in a Niche’

1929–30

Medium
Cellulose nitrate, cork and board on wood
Dimensions
Object: 114 x 222 x 51 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the artist 1977
Reference
T02170

Display caption

This model was made for a relief commissioned by the architect Eric Mendelsohn for his Berlin home in 1929. The relief was abandoned because the curved glasswork was too expensive. A drawing shows that it would have been three or four feet high, set into a wall above a sofa. The white plastic in the model represents the wall. The different forms and materials suggest the variety of ways in which Gabo sought to animate the internal space of the niche.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

T02170 Model for 'Double Relief in a Niche' 1929-30

Inscribed 'N. GABO' b.r.
Plastic, cork and cardboard, 4 1/2 x 8 3/4 x 2 (11.4 x 22.2 x 5.1); dimensions including wood and plastic surround 11 x 14 1/8 x 2 3/8 (28.2 x 36 x 6)
Presented by the artist 1977
Exh: Naum Gabo: The Constructive Process, Tate Gallery, November 1976-January 1977 (25, repr.) as 'Model for "Double Relief in a Niche" ' c.1929
Repr: Herbert Read and Leslie Martin, Gabo: Constructions, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Engravings (London 1957), pl.41 as 'Construction in a Niche' 1930

This was made as a project for one of the rooms in the house which the architect Eric Mendelsohn built for himself at Rupenhorn, Berlin, in 1929. The house had a painting by Ozenfant in the hall, a bronze relief by Mataré in the music room, and a painting by Feininger in the dining-room. There is a letter of September 1930 in the Tate Gallery Archive in which Eric Mendelsohn asked Gabo: 'Where are the sketches? I need them urgently, as I must make up my mind'. In the end the commission was abandoned, but Gabo carried out his idea for the left-hand relief independently in the larger 'Construction in a Niche' T02145.

The Tate Archive also owns a rough pencil sketch for the double relief, which is undated, and a larger pencil drawing on squared paper for the left-hand relief, which is signed and dated 1929.

Like the larger constructions T02144 and T02145, this was discovered in a dilapidated state in the loft of Gabo's house in April 1976 and repaired for inclusion in the exhibition at the Tate later the same year.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.241, reproduced p.241