Naum Gabo Spheric Theme (Penetrated Variation) c.1937–40

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Artwork details

Artist
Naum Gabo 1890–1977
Title
Spheric Theme (Penetrated Variation)
Date c.1937–40
Medium Bronze
Dimensions Object: 330 x 330 x 302 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Presented by the artist 1977
Reference
T02176
Not on display

Display caption

Josef Albers 1888-1976

Born Germany, worked Germany, USA

 

Cables 1931

Glass

The rolls in Cables contradict the laws of perspective, reflecting Albers’ interest in the psychology of perception. He used visual trickery to highlight the disjunction between what we see and how our brains process this information. This work was made by sandblasting coloured glass, a method originally devised for engraving headstones. Albers’ interest in such techniques related to his teaching at the Bauhaus, the school of art, architecture and design founded in Germany in 1919. The Bauhaus aimed to bring art closer to everyday life, with an emphasis on design and technology.

Presented by The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation 2006
T12204

Josef Albers 1888-1976

Born Germany, worked Germany, USA

 

Repetition Against Blue 1943

Oil on Masonite

Albers was fascinated by the nature of visual perception. The interlocking shapes of Repetition Against Blue teasingly play with ideas of perspective, and the question of what is foreground and what is background cannot be satisfactorily resolved. This work also shows his growing interest in colour, which he rigorously explored during his later years in the United States. The Bauhaus school of art and design had closed after Hitler came to power, and Albers carried its utopian ideas with him to a new teaching post at Black Mountain College in North Carolina.

Presented by The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation 2006
T12214

 

 

Constantin Brancusi 1876-1957

Born Romania, worked France, USA

 

Fish 1926

Poisson

Bronze, metal and wood

 

Brancusi attempted to capture the essential qualities of a human face or an animal in abstract and elementary forms. Here a bronze 'fish' stands on a polished disc, (its 'pool'), above a carved wooden base. Brancusi explained: 'When you see a fish, you do not think of its scales, do you? You think of its speed, its floating, flashing body seen through water ... If I made fins and eyes and scales, I would arrest its movement and hold you by a pattern, or a shape of reality. I want just the flash of its spirit.'

 

Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 1996
T07107

 

Robert Delaunay 1885-1941

Born and worked France

 

Endless Rhythm 1934

Rythme sans fin

Oil paint on canvas

 

The coloured discs strung out diagonally across the picture are so arranged that each one leads on to the next and the movement is directed back again into the picture at the two ends. Perhaps because of this infinitely looping effect, his wife Sonia considered Endless Rhythm to be the most appropriate title. The year after painting this, Delaunay was commissioned to paint murals for the Aeronautics pavilion at the 1937 Paris International Exhibition; the resulting compositions included discs, rings and colour rhythms on a huge scale.


Purchased 1970
T01233

 

 

 

Theo van Doesburg 1883-1931

Born and worked Netherlands

 

Counter-Composition VI 1925

Contre-compositie

Oil paint on canvas

 

 

Van Doesburg was the editor of De Stijl magazine and its combination of art, architecture and design reflected his own wide-ranging activities. He painted his first ‘Counter-Composition’ in 1924, using a diagonal grid to create a dynamic tension between the composition and the rectilinear format of the canvas. For van Doesburg, the shift marked a spiritual liberation from the ‘earth-bound’ verticals and horizontals used by the De Stijl group.

Purchased 1982
T03374

 

 

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

Born Russia, worked Germany, France, USA

 

Construction in Space: Diagonal 1921-5, reassembled 1986

Glass, metal and celluloid

 

Most of the components of this work were discovered in Gabo's attic in 1977 and reassembled later. The long vertical elements of the original appear to have been glass, so that it would have been even more transparent. Its construction shows Gabo's interest in scientific instruments, which were familiar to him having trained in engineering and natural sciences. Indeed, this piece was originally exhibited as ‘Construction for an Observatory’.

 

 

Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 1995

T06973

 

 

 

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

Born Russia, worked Germany, France, USA

 

Two Cubes (Demonstrating the Stereometric Method) 1930

Painted wood

Gabo used this work to illustrate his essay ‘Sculpture: Carving and Construction in Space’ in the anthology Circle. The two cubes show two ways of defining space in sculpture – one uses solid mass while the other expresses the form’s ‘inner space’. The latter was the key concept behind Gabo’s constructions; he sought to make the space occupied by an object visible without enclosing it. ‘Inner space’ was an example of what Gabo called the ‘Constructive idea’, where the boundaries between the object and the artist’s perceptions of that object were dissolved, so that ‘art becomes reality’.

Presented by the artist 1977
T02166

 

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

Born Russia, worked Germany, France, USA


Construction: Stone with a Collar 1933, this version circa 1936-7

Stone, cellulose acetate, slate and brass

In the 1920s Gabo rejected sculptural mass and the use of natural materials in favour of space and industrial materials. Here, however, he brings together the expression of open space (the curvature of the cellulose acetate and the painted brass ‘collar’) with the sculptural solidity of stone resting on a slate base. In taking this direction, Gabo wished to express what he saw as the hidden forces of nature.

Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 1995
T06975

 

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

Born Russia, worked Germany, France, USA

 

Spheric Theme (Penetrated Variation) circa 1937-40

Bronze

Gabo lived in Britain from 1935 to 1946 and worked in Carbis Bay in Cornwall during the war. In this sculpture he creates a continuous curved surface with a single sheet of bronze, intersected by a square plane. Gabo’s pioneering theories of geometry and pure abstraction influenced a number of British artists. The innovative materials and techniques of his constructions expanded the creative possibilities for exploring space, form and movement, and artists such as Barbara Hepworth extended these ideas to their relationship with the landscape.

Presented by the artist 1977
T02176

 

 

Albert Gleizes 1881-1953

Born and worked France

 

Painting 1921

Tableau

Gouache on wood

 

Gleizes developed each work very carefully, drawing the composition in pencil, then making several gouaches with varying colour possibilities before painting a final version. The abstracted image may be based on a female head, possibly that of the artist’s wife. According to this interpretation, the central image is frontal, showing the face in a cloche hat with a scarf; the second concentric set is the head again, closer, and the third gives an idea of the hair, concealed in the hat.

 

Purchased 1962
T00550

 

 

Julio González 1876-1942

Born Spain, worked France

 

Head called 'The Tunnel' 1933-4

Tête dite 'Le Tunnel'

Steel

González is regarded as the pioneer of welded iron sculpture. He learned oxyacetylene welding while working at the Renault car factory during the First World War. The tensile strength of iron allowed him to create three-dimensional forms without filling in the volume, an effect that he described as ‘drawing in space’. Many of his works show a concern with the human figure, often in a highly abstracted form. In this work, a cylindrical head is placed above a trapezium neck, with suspended triangles to indicate features.

Purchased 1972
T01698

 

Jean Hélion 1904-1987

Born France, worked France, USA

 

Abstract Composition 1934

Composition abstraite

Oil paint on canvas

 

Hélion saw himself as belonging to the second generation of abstract artists in Paris, after pioneers such as Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg. He was an energetic promoter of abstract or non-figurative art, and helped to found international groups such as Art Concret and Abstraction-Création. He believed that abstract art, however radical, shared timeless values of balance, rhythm and composition with the great art of the past. In this small painting he creates a compositional unity through the visual resolution of vertical and horizontal forms and colour relationships.


Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2002
T07921

 

 

Jean Hélion 1904-1987

Born France, worked France, USA


Ile de France 1935

Oil paint on canvas

Hélion, one of the most prominent abstract artists in Paris in the 1930s, recorded the progress of many of his works in a studio notebook. The passage written about Ile de France reveals his doubts about the relation between abstract art and reality: ‘The oppositions are developing. The colours are becoming refined, the space more supple, but the more I advance the more evident is the attraction of nature. The space is provisionally, miraculously, filled with light but the volumes want to become complete: objects, bodies.’


Purchased 1965
T00766

 

Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

Born and worked Britain

 

Discs in Echelon 1935, cast 1959

Bronze

The title of Discs in Echelon announces its formal simplicity – the offset relation of two slightly different discs placed on a rectangular base. The discs present almost flat surfaces to each other, but the outer sides are more rounded; in elevation, a crisp edge at the discs’ upper shoulders is broadened as it descends. The original version of this work was carved directly by hand from ‘darkwood’ (possibly rosewood) in the 1930s. It was cast in bronze more than twenty years later.


Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980
T03132

 

Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

Born and worked Britain

 

Pierced Hemisphere II 1937-8

Hoptonwood stone on Portland stone base

 

 

Though purely geometrical as its name suggests, the form of this sculpture has some lingering associations with shells. It was made within a year by Hepworth for friends to place in their garden in Cornwall, and was displayed outdoors for many years until being acquired by Tate in 2004. Hepworth’s skill as a carver is exemplified by the spiral on the outside of the sculpture, which begins with a sharp edge, gradually softening as it proceeds, and finishes as a curved edge.

 

Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2004
T11785

 

 

 

 

Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

Born and worked Britain

 

Forms in Echelon 1938

Wood

Hepworth and her husband Ben Nicholson were key figures in the modern movement in Britain in the 1930s. Their circle became increasingly important as European artists such as Naum Gabo and Piet Mondrian fled to London. This work relates to her interest in situating sculpture in the landscape: an early image showed it superimposed onto a photograph of a garden. 'The sculpture has an upward growth but the curves of the two monoliths make a closed composition which, in the open, with light all round, they create a quietness, a pause in the progress of the eye', Hepworth said.

Presented by the artist 1964
T00698

 

Wassily Kandinsky 1866-1944

Born Russia, worked Germany, France

 

Swinging 1925

Schaukeln

Oil paint on board

 

The title of Swinging conveys the painting’s sense of dynamic movement, suggestive of the rhythms of modernity. One of the pioneers of abstract painting, Kandinsky championed a mystical approach to art. His treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art, published in 1911, argued for art that was purified from all references to the material world. He felt that colour in particular was essential for liberating art from naturalistic appearances.

 

Purchased 1979
T02344

 

 

Bart van der Leck 1876-1958

Born and worked Netherlands

 

Composition 1918

Oil paint on canvas

Van der Leck began to paint completely abstract compositions after meeting Piet Mondrian in 1916. The following year, he became a co-founder of De Stijl, the Dutch magazine that promoted a highly geometric abstract art linked to spiritual and utopian ideas. However, he soon fell out with Mondrian and the other De Stijl artists, and began to include figurative elements in his work once more. This may be one of his few wholly abstract works, though it is possible that in its early stages the composition derived from a recognisable image such as a vase of flowers.

Purchased 1966
T00896

 

 

Fernand Léger 1881-1955

Born France, worked France, USA

 

Still Life with a Beer Mug 1921-2

Nature morte à la chope

Oil paint on canvas

 

After his experiences in the First World War, Léger became convinced that art should be accessible to all. He moved away from pure abstraction towards the stylised depiction of real objects, laying great emphasis on order, clarity and harmony. In the 1920s he developed a concern with geometric composition and decoration. This painting shows a relatively naturalistic still life of a workman's lunch on a table. The primary colours of the mug and tablecloth contrast with the dazzling black and white patterns in the background.

 

Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1976
T02035

 

 

Fernand Léger 1881-1955

Born France, worked France, USA

 

Leaves and Shell 1927

Feuilles et coquillage

Oil paint on canvas

 

Though many of Léger's paintings celebrate machine-made objects and modern city life, in the late 1920s he began to incorporate natural forms into his work. The curving line down the left-hand side of the painting softens the underlying geometric structure of horizontal and vertical lines, acting as a link to the organic shapes of leaves and shell. In turn, these naturalistic elements, with their streamlined shapes, appear closely related to the abstract parts of the image.

 

Purchased 1949
N05907

 

 

Jacques Lipchitz 1891-1973

Born Russia, worked France, USA

 

Sculpture 1916

Plaster

 

The subject of this sculpture is a woman, seated with her legs crossed. The tall block is part of the head, and was added, according to the artist, 'to give value to the head, the back of the head.' This plaster was cast from a stone carving, which the artist said he carved himself rather than asking his assistant to copy from the model. There is a network of pencil crosses over the shellac surface, which mark 'points' for another carved copy to be made.

 

Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982
T03492

 

 

 

Jacques Lipchitz 1891-1973

Born Russia, worked France, USA

 

Seated Man with Clarinet I 1920

Homme assis à la clarinette I

Plaster

 

The figure of a clarinet player emerges from a series of block-like forms in this sculpture. Musical subject matter was typical of early works by the cubists Picasso and Braque, and the angular facets of this work suggest a relationship to the geometric shapes of cubist painting. The work also reflects the aesthetic ideals of purism, a movement which began after the First World War and sought to develop aspects of cubism, emphasising simplicity and harmony.

 

Presented by the Lipchitz Foundation 1982
T03488

 

 

László Moholy-Nagy 1895-1946

Born Hungary, worked Hungary, Britain, USA

 

K VII 1922

Oil paint on canvas

The 'K' in the title of K VII stands for the German word Konstruktion (‘construction’), and the painting's ordered, geometrical forms are typical of Moholy-Nagy’s technocratic Utopianism. The year after it was painted, he was appointed to teach the one year-preliminary course at the recently founded Bauhaus in Weimar. Moholy-Nagy’s appointment signalled a major shift in the school’s philosophy away from its earlier crafts ethos towards a closer alignment with the demands of modern industry, and a programme of simple design and unadorned functionalism.

Purchased 1961
T00432

 

Ben Nicholson 1894-1982

Born and worked Britain

 

1934 (relief) 1934

Oil paint on wood

 

Like the cubists, Nicholson was interested in the ways in which paintings can represent space. In the 1930s, he made shallow reliefs in which areas of different depths define actual space. In the most radical of these, colour was reduced to just white or grey to achieve a sense of purity. Depth and plain colour make the play of light and shadow an intrinsic part of the work. This emphasis was related to new ideas about living and, especially, to modern architecture, in which natural light and formal simplicity were major concerns.

 

Purchased 1978
T02314

 

 

 

Ben Nicholson 1894-1982

Born and worked Britain

 

1937 (relief) 1937

Oil paint on board

 

Although many of Nicholson's reliefs were large, he also explored the possibilities of this type of work on a tiny scale. Because of their apparent austerity and relationship with modern architecture, Nicholson's reliefs have often been seen as cold and mechanistic, but on close inspection their handmade qualities come through in brush marks and surface irregularities.

 

Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 1995
T07006

 

 

 

Winifred Nicholson 1893-1981

Born Britain, worked Britain, France

 

Quarante Huit Quai d'Auteuil 1935

Oil paint on board

 

This painting was illustrated in the journal Circle. The title refers to Winifred Nicholson’s address in Paris, where she lived from 1932 to 1938, befriending leading artists such as Piet Mondrian, Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp and Jean Hélion. Nicholson painted her first abstract paintings in 1934, exhibiting them under the name Winifred Dacre. The paintings are expressions of colour and light, and she wrote in Circle that ‘[t]he nature of abstract colour is utter purity – but colours wish to fly, to merge, to change each other by their juxtapositions, to radiate, to shine, to withdraw deep within themselves.’

Purchased 1975
T01995

 

Winifred Nicholson 1893-1981

Born Britain, worked Britain, France


Moonlight and Lamplight 1937

Oil paint on canvas

 

Having embraced abstraction, Nicholson contended that ‘material resemblances were of no account - and that art could be valid without resemblances to physical objects’.

Writing the year Moonlight and Lamplight was painted, Nicholson stated that she was ‘using colour to express colour - the form could take whatever form the colour wanted’. She was ‘never interested in form, or shape or volume or mass to express colour,’ but ‘studied the way the rainbow prisms break up white light into colour and ... the balance and pose of the weight of one colour against another’.

 

Purchased 1975
T01996

 

 


Amédée Ozenfant 1886-1966

Born France, worked France, Britain, USA

 

Glasses and Bottles circa 1922-6

Verres et bouteilles

Oil on canvas

Ozenfant co-founded a style of painting known as purism, which applied the principles of classical proportion to products of the machine age. The fluting of the bottles in this painting recalls classical columns, and is echoed in the various neighbouring forms. These rhythmic relationships create a harmonious unity, which embodies Ozenfant’s belief that order gives rise to aesthetic experience. He wrote, ‘The highest delectation of the human mind is the perception of order, and the greatest human satisfaction is the feeling of collaboration or participation in this order’.

Purchased 1962
T00551

 

Georges Vantongerloo 1886-1965

Born Belgium, worked Belgium, Netherlands, France

 

Interrelation of Volumes 1919

Rapport des volumes

Sandstone

 

Vantongerloo’s aim was to ‘render visible the beauty of space’. This work is one of his earliest abstract sculptures. It attempts to give solid form to the relationships between pure, geometric shapes. Vantongerloo made contact with the De Stijl group while working in The Hague in 1917. He immediately began experimenting with abstraction. ‘If in sculpture, the interrelation of volumes achieves unity’ he wrote, ‘it is because everything is balanced.’

Purchased 1978
T02306

 

___________________________________________________________________________

Georges Vantongerloo 1886-1965

Born Belgium, worked Belgium, Netherlands, France

 

No. 98 2478 Red/135 Green 1936

No. 98 2478 rouge/135 vert

Oil paint on wood

 

Vantongerloo was one of the pioneers of a mathematical approach to abstract art. The first number in the title, ’No.98’, is simply the figure Vantongerloo gave the work in his own catalogue. The rest of the numbers represent units of space in the painting. The basic unit (1) is the white rectangle and green stripe on the left of the bottom row. The second and third spaces along are each equivalent to two of these rectangles. Adding these numbers (1, 2, 2) cumulatively results in 1, 3 (1+2), 5 (3+2) for the green stripe section. The red row works on the same principle to give 2,4,7,8.

 

Purchased 1972
T01574

 

 

 

Paule Vézelay 1892-1984

Born Britain, worked Britain, France

 

Forms on Grey 1935

Oil paint on canvas

 

Paule Vézelay lived in Paris between 1926 and 1939, changing her name from Marjorie Watson-Williams to obscure her gender and nationality. In 1934 she joined and exhibited with Abstraction Création, a loosely knit organisation of artists in Paris dedicated to the defence of non-figurative art. Although the objects depicted in this painting suggest abstracted objects from a still-life setting, such as vases or bowls, Vézelay consistently denied that the forms in her paintings were derived from nature but were instead wholly invented.

Bequeathed by the artist 1985
T03955

 

Paule Vézelay 1892-1984

Born Britain, worked Britain, France

 

Five Forms 1935

Plaster

While living in Paris, between 1926 and 1939, Paule Vézelay’s work became increasingly abstract. This is one of a small group of white plaster sculptures that she made in 1935. For Vézelay the use of simple, white, biomorphic forms suggested truth, beauty, harmony and clarity. It also offered a medium for a new political and spiritual understanding of life

Presented by the Patrons of British Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation 2000
T07582

 

 

Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart

Born Germany, worked Germany, France

 

Composition No. 15 1925

Oil paint on canvas

 

Vordemberge-Gildewart was one of the first painters to work throughout his career in an abstract style. In 1924 he became a member of the De Stijl group and in 1932 he joined the Abstraction-Création group in Paris. Trained in interior design and architecture, Vordemberge initially made reliefs and sculptures. By 1923, he wrote, he 'started making deliberate use of colour' in making paintings. This is one of his earliest paintings and exemplifies what he called 'Absolute art'; namely art without content or object. Colour, form, contrast and space were the only objects.

 

Purchased 1971
T01474

 

 

May 2012

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