Philip Wilson Steer

The Toilet of Venus

1898

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 2553 x 1835 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Frank Lycett Green 1927
Reference
N04272

Display caption

Following his infatuation for his young model Rosie Pettigrew, Steer unexpectedly turned to painting two erotic subjects from the Old Masters, a 'Rape of the Sabines' and this 'Toilet of Venus', which is his largest canvas. He moved on from the bright, out-of-doors colouring of his Impressionist series to a manner based on the monochrome oil sketches of the French eighteenth-century painter Fragonard. In this painting he also made a specific homage to Gainsborough's 'Musidora' (displayed in room 3). There was in the years around 1900 a renewal of interest in the furniture and art of the French Rococo. Steer did not exhibit the picture until 1924.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

N04272 THE TOILET OF VENUS 1898

Inscr. ‘P. W. Steer 1898’ b.l.
Canvas, 100 1/2×72 1/4 (255·5×183·5).
Presented by Frank Lycett Green 1927.
Coll: Purchased by Frank Lycett Green from the Goupil Gallery 1924.
Exh: Goupil Gallery, March–April 1924 (55); Tate Gallery, November–December 1960 (37).
Repr: Ironside, 1943, pl.30; Hesketh Hubbard, A Hundred Years of British Painting 1851–1951, 1951, pl.74.

The idea for this painting appears to have been in Steer's mind since 1897, as a study for the negro page (30×25 in.) dates from that year. In 1933 this study was bought by R. E. A. Wilson at Sotheby's, and either this or another study of the page (19×24 1/2 in.) belonging to Mrs Francis Evans in 1945 may be the same painting as that now in the collection of Mr McCormick-Goodhart of Alexandria, near Washington, D.C. The Duchess of Roxburghe possessed in 1943 a study for the kneeling and sitting putti (repr. Ironside, op. cit., pl.29). ‘The Toilet of Venus’ is the largest and most elaborate of all Steer's subject pieces, but appears to be not completely finished.

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