Catalogue entry

T02346 PLAYGROUND (The Gutter) 1935

Inscribed ‘Roberts. 36’ bottom right
Oil on canvas, 56 3/8 × 62 3/4 (143.2 × 159.4)
Purchased from Ernest Cooper (Grant-in-Aid) 1979
Prov: Ernest Cooper, Findon (purchased from the artist)
Exh: (‘The Gutter’) William Roberts, Lefevre Gallery, March 1938 (7) as ‘The Gutter’; International Exhibition, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, October–November 1938 (147, repr.); Contemporary British Art, New York World's Fair, April–October 1939 (British pavilion 110); Contemporary British Art, British Council tour to Canadian and US museums, December 1939–September 1940 (110); Contemporary British Art, Toledo Museum of Art, October 1942 (76, repr.); (‘The Playground’) William Roberts ARA: Retrospective Exhibition, Tate Gallery, November–December 1965 (53, ‘The Gutter’ repr.); Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, January 1966 (53, ‘The Gutter’ repr.); Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, January–February 1966 (53, ‘The Gutter’ repr.); Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts, RA from the Ernest Cooper Collection, Worthing Art Gallery, April–June 1972 (21) as ‘The Gutter I’
Repr: (‘The Gutter’) William Roberts, Paintings 1917–1958, 1960, p.41 as ‘The Playground’ 1934–5; Tate Gallery 1978–80, p.57 in colour

This was originally the left-hand part of a larger picture ‘The Gutter’, of which T02347 was the right-hand section. The canvas was divided into two after its return from the USA at the end of the war as it had been slightly damaged and also because Roberts decided that it would not sell on such a scale. A strip about a foot wide between the two sections was partly folded back behind the stretcher and partly cut away, and there was a little overpainting along the divisions. The section removed showed three boys, one behind another, all playing with tops and whips; the one in the foreground was in a kneeling position.

William Roberts said that he made this exceptionally large picture because he had heard that artists were being commissioned to paint pictures for a new Cunard or P & O liner (probably the Queen Mary, for which various artists made decorations in 1935) and that representatives of the shipping company were visiting artists' studios to look at their work. His original intention had been to paint a picture more or less the same size and composition as ‘The Playground’. The picture was painted at Haverstock Hill, NW3, which he left in 1935, and signed and incorrectly dated 1936 when divided years later.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981