Catalogue entry

T02091 STUDY FOR ‘ADAM AND EVE’ c. 1936

Inscribed ‘CM.’ and ‘Study for the “Adam & Eve”’ b.r.
Pencil, ink and wash on paper, 15 15/16 × 10 5/8 (40.5 × 27.0)
Presented by the artist's widow, Dorothy Mahoney, through Michael Parkin Fine Art Ltd. 1976
Exh: Parkin Gallery, October 1975 (no catalogue)

This is a squared-up study for Tate Gallery N05323, which Mahoney exhibited at the NEAC in 1936(199). Adam and Eve are shown exploring the Garden of Eden before their fall. They are seen through a brick window at the right of which a pair of hands, belonging to some unseen person inside the building, arranges a branch of leaves in a glass on the sill. In the final painting Adam and Eve hold hands instead of standing apart and some of the objects on the window sill are different: two pears in place of the insects shown in the drawing, more flowers in the vase at the left and a less elegant glass at the right.

As no record appears to survive of Mahoney's precise intentions in ‘Adam and Eve’, one can only guess at the identity of the mysterious hands. Are they meant to be God's? Or did the artist, a keen botanist, imagine Eden as his own garden and do the hands stand for his own? Throughout his life Mahoney turned to flowers and gardens for much of his subject matter; about the time ‘Adam and Eve’ was painted he was even preparing, with Evelyn Dunbar, an illustrated book on the subject, Gardeners' Choice, which appeared in 1937. That the hands may be human rather than divine is also suggested by the inclusion of similar motifs in non-Biblical pictures, for example ‘Three Boxes with Flowers’ (Coll. John Ward), in which mysterious fingers edge their way into the design.

Mahoney painted and drew the Adam and Eve subject on later occasions. An oil ‘Sketch for Adam and Eve’ exhibited at the NEAC in 1959 (77) and still with Mrs Mahoney is a different composition, as presumably is the drawing ‘Garden of Eden, Version II’ shown there in 1965 (409). In the latter year Mahoney exhibited at the RA two pen and wash drawings entitled ‘Adam and Eve (version II)’ and ‘Study for Adam and Eve (version II)’ (nos. 1239 and 1265 respectively). Another pen and wash drawing shown at the RA that year, ‘Adam and Eve (version I)’ (1266) is presumably related to T02091.

On the reverse of T02091 there are an ink drawing of a tree, and ink sketches of crowns (one on a female head), with suggestions of ornamented designs (the latter perhaps for costume relating to the crowns).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979