Catalogue entry

T04877 A Sleeping Girl c.1875

Oil on canvas 308 × 225 (12 1/8 × 8 7/8)
Inscribed with Moore's anthemion device t.l.
Presented by Arthur Grogan 1986
Prov: ...; Cecil French (1879–1953); acquired from his collection by Abbott and Holder c. 1963 and bt by John Grogan, from whom inherited by Arthur Grogan 1966
Exh: Albert Moore and his Contemporaries, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, Sept.–Oct. 1972 (51, as ‘Study related to the right-hand figure in “A Sofa”, “Apples” and “Beads”’)
Repr: Tate Gallery Report 1986–88, 1988, p.59 in col.

During a period of approximately ten years from 1874 Moore produced a series of small oil paintings which depicted one or two draped female figures in interiors. These works were deliberately devoid of any specific narrative content; instead Moore was preoccupied with the aesthetic possibilities of colour and surface pattern.

The first finished compositions to emerge from this phase of Moore's career can be dated to 1875 and are three in number: ‘A Sofa’ (private collection; oil on canvas 280 × 508, 11 3/8 × 19 3/4; repr. A.L. Baldry, Albert Moore: His Life and Work, 1903, opp. p.74 and, in col., Victorian Dreamers, exh. cat., Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, Kofu, Japan 1987, p.81); ‘Apples’ (private collection; Christie's 19 May 1978, lot 61, repr.; oil on canvas 292 × 509, 11 1/2 × 20) and ‘Beads’ (National Gallery of Scotland; oil on canvas 285 × 502, 11 1/4 × 19 3/4; repr. Graham Reynolds, Victorian Painting, 1966, pl.82). All three works, different in colour and detail, are variations on the theme of two girls asleep, one at either end of a long sofa.

Baldry, the artist's first biographer, drew attention to a number of small canvases - ‘the preliminaries with which, as was his wont, Albert Moore felt his way towards a more important picture which he had in his mind’ (p.45) - which were associated with this series. Although T 04877 is not specifically mentioned by Baldry, its overall design and scale clearly indicate that it is closely related to the right-hand figure in ‘A Sofa’, ‘Apples’ and ‘Beads’. In T04877, however, Moore incorporated the motifs of the vase and the fan which feature prominently on the left-hand of the composition in the larger canvases. This degree of elaboration, completed by the artist's anthemion ‘signature’, implies that Moore saw the work as one ready for public exhibition rather than just an experimental study. The most obvious clue to Moore's possible intentions here is to be found in a small canvas, ‘Pansies’, obviously part of the same group of preliminary studies for finished pictures as T 04877, which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1875 (357; private collection; oil on canvas, 260 × 190, 10 1/4 × 7 1/2; repr. The Moore Family Pictures, exh. cat., York City Art Gallery 1980, p.27). This also shows a girl seated at the right-hand side of a sofa, though she is awake and her head rests on her right hand; a half-open fan and a pansy (recalling, for example, the beads and the fan seen on the left of ‘A Sofa’ and ‘Apples’) lie on the floor near her right foot. Moore's anthemion device is on the wall behind her head.

‘A Sleeping Girl’ was not apparently exhibited during Moore's lifetime but ‘Pansies’ was enthusiastically received by the critics: John Ruskin described it as ‘consumately artistic and scientific work’ (‘Academy Notes, 1875’, E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, eds., The Works of John Ruskin, XIV, 1904, p.272) while the critic of the Athenaeum wrote of it as ‘pure art’ (29 May 1875, p.72). Such responses presumably encouraged Moore to exhibit ‘Beads’ - the most complete realisation of his ideas at this time - at the Academy the following year.

Cecil French was a notable collector of works by Albert Moore and his contemporaries. There is a certain irony in the fact that a picture formerly in his possession has been given to the Tate for ‘he distrusted “so-called modern art in all its manifestations” and in his Will he firmly stated that nothing [from his collection] was to go to the Tate Gallery, whose policy he deplored’ (Catalogue of the Cecil French Bequest to Fulham Public Libraries, 1954 [p.1]).

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996