Sir Thomas Monnington

Allegory

c.1924

Medium
Tempera on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1257 x 2768 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1939
Reference
N05036

Display caption

Monnington studied at the Slade School of Art from 1918-22. He then spent the years 1922-5 as a Scholar in Decorative Painting at the British School at Rome, where this painting was begun. The landscape is taken from studies made around the Umbrian town of Piediluco; the imagery was partly inspired by general ideas about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but also more particularly by Monnington's love of Italy and delight in his marriage in 1924 to Winifred Knights, a fellow painter at the British School. The Adam and Eve-like figures are based on Monnington and Knights. Two paintings by Knights are also on display in this gallery.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

N05036 ALLEGORY c. 1924

Not inscribed.
Tempera on canvas, 109 1/2×49 1/2 (278·5×125·5), plus painted border of about 1 1/2 (3·75) at sides, 1 1/8 (2·75) at top and 7/8 (2·25) below.
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1939.
Coll: Purchased by the C.A.S. 1925.
Exh: (?) N.E.A.C., June 1924 (112), as ‘Figures in Landscape’; Autumn Exhibition, Brighton, 1927 (16); Re-opening Exhibition, Liverpool, October–December 1933 (192); Aberdeen Artists' Society, 1935 (296); British Council, Empire Exhibition, Johannesburg, 1936 (558); C.A.S. Exhibition, Bath, March–April 1938 (26).
Repr: C.A.S. Report 1925, 1926, p.5.

The painting, which is unfinished, was executed at the British School at Rome when the artist was there as a Rome Scholar, 1923–6. The landscape background was based on sketches made around Piediluco, between Terni and Rieti. The artist wrote of the subject, ‘The idea is a bit complex and was based on the story of the Garden of Eden, but rather a personal interpretation of it’ (letter of 17 May 1953). When pressed to elaborate this he replied: ‘I am no more able to explain its exact meaning now than I was at the time when I painted it. The whole design certainly had a very particular meaning and purpose and was an attempt to express in pictorial form my attitude to life - almost my faith’ (letter of 8 July 1957).

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

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