Bart van der Leck 1876-1958
T01098 Study for Compositions No.3 and No.4 (Leaving the Factory)
Inscribed 'fabrieksuitgang' and 'IV/7' on the back
Pencil, charcoal and conté crayon on paper, 38 x 59 (96.5 x 150)
Presented by Mr and Mrs Robert Lewin through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1968
Prov: Purchased by Mr and Mrs Robert Lewin (the Brook Street Gallery, London) from the artist's estate through the Kunsthandel Monet, Amsterdam, for presentation
Lit: Rudolf W. Oxenaar, 'The Birth of de Stijl, Part Two: Bart Van der Leck' in Artforum, XI, June 1973, pp.41-3, repr. p.40 as 'Study for Compositions No.3 and No.4 (Leaving the Factory)' 1917
Repr: Burlington Magazine, CXII, 1970, p.341 as 'Leaving the Factory'
Van der Leck first took up the theme of workers leaving a factory in 1908 and made a series of studies which culminated in a large painting of 1910 now in the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam. After his visit to Laren in the spring of 1916 and his meeting with Mondrian, he changed his style and started to number his paintings, naming them 'Compositions' without a further descriptive title. As R.W. Oxenaar has written: 'Through a laborious process of intermediate studies, often using material from his earlier realist period as a starting point, he arrived at an abstracted version composed of small, unconnected, rectangular fields of primary colour against a white background.'
The Tate's drawing is one of a small series of studies on the same theme of workers leaving a factory (but this time showing the workers coming from the left instead of the right, and with an isolated figure of a woman on the right) which led up to two paintings of 1917, 'Composition No.3' and 'Composition No.4 (Leaving the Factory)' both now in the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller at Otterlo, both of which appear completely abstract at first sight. It seems to have been the second of four studies, all the same size, and to have been preceded by a charcoal drawing in which the figures are sketchier and less stylised, and the background less developed. The third and fourth studies, both in gouache, show the progressive reduction of the figures and buildings into a composition made up of vertical and horizontal lines of varying length, plus a few short diagonals. The two oils have no diagonals and consist entirely of carefully spaced vertical and horizontal bars or slab-like rectangles of the three primary colours and black on a white ground. Despite the extreme abstraction, it is still possible to recognise some traces of the original theme, such as a regular pattern at the top derived from the windows and the structure of the buildings, and a row of small yellow rectangles across the centre derived from the heads. 'Composition 3' has narrow linear bars of colour and a large expanse of white, but in 'Composition 4' the blocks of colour are wider and more rectangular, which produces a much more colourful effect.
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, pp.413-14, reproduced p.413