Charles Sims Study for ‘I am the Abyss and I am Light’ 1928

Artwork details

Charles Sims 1873–1928
Study for ‘I am the Abyss and I am Light’
Date 1928
Medium Gouache, graphite and chalk on paper on board
Dimensions Support: 285 x 400 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1997
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms


This watercolour is a study for the tempera painting I Am the Abyss and I Am Light (Tate Gallery N04396), one of Sims's 'spiritual series' which was interrupted by the artist's suicide. The paintings were exhibited as a group at the Royal Academy in 1928 as a memorial to Sims, who had been the Keeper of the Academy.

This study differs quite considerably from the final painting. It is more clearly figurative ( the abstract shapes on the left side of the finished work can be discerned in the watercolour as a representation of the Creator. From this study, Sims's process of abstraction which led to the final painting can be determined. Another study for I Am the Abyss and I Am Light is in the collection of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.

Further reading:
Charles Sims, ed. Alan Sims, Picture Making: Technique & Inspiration, London 1934, pp.127-30
Harold Speed, 'Charles Sims, R.A.', The Old Water-Colour Society's Club 1928-1929, vol.6, London 1929, pp.62-4

Terry Riggs
October 1997

About this artwork