Catalogue entry

N05618 WHAT OF THE WAR? c. 1881

Inscr. ‘P. Wilson Steer 1883’ b.r.
Canvas, 36×27 3/4 (91·5×70).
Purchased from Barbizon House (Knapping Fund) 1945.
Coll: Mrs Frances E. Thorne; anon., sold Christie's, 13 March 1925 (3), bt. Holdsworth; anon., sold Christie's, 3 February 1928 (90), bt. Brockbank; Owen Smith by 1929; anon., sold Christie's, 20 July 1945 (124), bt. Lockett Thomson of Barbizon House.
Exh: R.A., 1883 (206); Tate Gallery, April–July 1929 (73); Tate Gallery, November–December 1960 (3).
Lit: MacColl, 1945, pp.26, 188, repr. pl.13a.
Repr: The Times, 19 April 1929.

This, Steer's first exhibited work, is a portrait of Mr Bick, brother-in-law of John Kemp, the master of the Gloucester School of Art where Steer first attended, and where this portrait was in fact painted, probably in 1881. The date 1883 must be a later addition, perhaps for the Royal Academy, as Steer was in Paris that year. The ‘war’ must have been the Sudan War which began in 1881 after the revolt of the Mahdi and dragged on for ten years.

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