Sir Roland PenrosePortrait 1939

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Artwork details

Artist
Sir Roland Penrose (1900‑1984)
Title
Portrait
Date 1939
MediumOil paint on canvas
Dimensionssupport: 762 x 637 mm frame: 805 x 950 x 80 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased 1982
Reference
T03400

Display caption

Penrose was a crucial figure in introducing Surrealism to Britain. He developed a type of word-and-image portrait in which the poetic and painted elements are mutually enriching. The abstract forms suggest, rather than depict, the subject while the ornate frame exaggerates the unconventional quality. When submitted for the United Artists exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1940, Portrait was rejected because the organisers considered some words offensive (presumably ‘arse’). In its place, Penrose submitted a painting of a group of hands, which were later discovered to spell ‘SHIT’ in sign language.

December 2005

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