Duncan Grant
Head of Eve 1913

Artwork details

Duncan Grant 1885–1978
Head of Eve
Date 1913
Medium Oil paint on board
Dimensions Support: 756 x 635 mm
frame: 829 x 750 x 48 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1984
Not on display


Grant appears not to have exhibited Head of Eve when it was newly painted. The first time it was brought to public notice was as an illustration in Roger Fry's 1923 book on the artist. It is most likely a study for the artist's large canvas Adam and Eve. That work, exhibited at the Alpine Club Gallery, London, in 1914, is now lost, and known only from an old photograph (reproduced Shone, pl.79). In the painting, Eve is naked, facing the viewer in a frontal position, with both forearms raised, hands outstretched, and the backs of her hands turned outward. She appears either to have very long hair or to be wearing a veil which is attached to the back of her head and which falls down her back. The pose of Eve in this painting is identical to that of the figure in Head of Eve. In Adam and Eve, Eve stands framed on either side by two decorative trees with long narrow trunks and palm frond-like foliage and appears to hold two palm fronds above her shoulders. In Head of Eve, Eve's truncated forearms and hands also guide two leafy branches towards her body, although here the branches have two small round red fruit-like objects at their ends.

For the art historian Richard Shone, Adam and Eve and Head of Eve reveal Grant's interest in a wide range of stylistic sources: 'borrowings and influences - from the Byzantine, from Picasso, from Persian miniatures, from newspaper photographs and "contemporary" life ... from Matisse, the Bible and the early Italians - are used in an intoxicating shuffle and reshuffle, all equally suitable and suggestive as catalysts to work' (Shone, p.130). The decorative quality of the piece is related to Grant's work in the Omega Workshops, founded in 1913 by Roger Fry. The workshops produced furniture, pottery and textiles designed by various young artists. The short hatched strokes of colour which accentuate the edges of Eve's long neck, her cheeks and her nose in Head of Eve were used by Grant as a form of stylised shading to create volume.

Further reading:
Richard Shone, Bloomsbury Portraits, London 1976, pp.84, 129-30
Judith Collins, The Omega Workshops, London 1983, pp.58, 78, 81
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1988, pp.156-60, reproduced
Simon Watney, The Art of Duncan Grant, London 1990, pp.34-5, reproduced pl.13 in colour

Terry Riggs
January 1998