Adrian Stokes

Still Life: Last Eleven (No. 4)

1972

Artist
Adrian Stokes 1902–1972
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 328 x 410 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1983
Reference
T03579

Not on display

Display caption

Adrian Stokes's last eleven paintings were all completed after the onset in July 1972 of his final illness, ten of them being begun after that time. The last nine belong to the Tate Gallery. The nature of, and treatment for, Stokes's illness, a tumour of the brain, help account for these paintings' particular character. Stokes stated that during this last period he was able to achieve the results he was seeking as a painter. All these works were painted at his home in Hampstead, north London, and the vessels represented include several made by his wife Ann, whose pottery was in their house.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

T03579

Oil on canvasboard on blockboard, 328 x 410 mm (12 7/8 x 16 1/8 in)

Purchased from Mrs Ann Stokes Angus, the artist’s widow (Grant-in-Aid) 1983

Exhibited:
The Last Paintings of Adrian Stokes, Tate Gallery, London, Feb.-March 1973 (no catalogue)
Adrian Stokes, Arts Council tour, Serpentine Gallery, London, June-July 1982, Huddersfield Art Gallery, July-Aug., City Museum and Art Gallery, Gloucester, Sept.-Oct. 1982 (119 as Still Life: Last Eleven)
The Hard Won Image: Traditional Method and Subject in Recent British Art, Tate Gallery, London, July-Sept. 1984 (126)

Literature:
Richard Wollheim, ‘Adrian Stokes’, Listener, 28 Dec. 1972, p.900
John Russell, ‘Review’, Sunday Times, 25 Feb. 1973
Nigel Gosling, ‘Review’, Observer, 25 Feb. 1973
Lawrence Gowing, ‘True to Form’, New Statesman, 2 March 1973, p.316
Michael McNay, ‘Adrian Stokes’, Guardian, 3 March 1973
Marina Vaizey, ‘Adrian Stokes, John Hubbard’, Financial Times, 5 March 1973
Christopher Fox, ‘Review’, Studio International, vol.185, no.954, April 1973, p.153
Keith Roberts, ‘Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions’, Burlington Magazine, vol.115, no.841, April 1973, p.263
Richard Wollheim, ‘Adrian Stokes, Critic, Painter, Poet’, 4th William Townsend lecture, Slade School of Art, 1978, extended version published Times Literary Supplement, 17 Feb. 1978, p.207, reprinted in Stephen Bann (ed.), ‘Adrian Stokes 1902-72’, supplement, PN Review 15, vol.7 no.1, 1980, p.37
Richard Wollheim, ‘On Adrian Stokes’s Paintings 1972’, Adrian Stokes, exh. cat., Serpentine Gallery, London 1982, p.18
Richard Wollheim, ‘An Artist Who Practiced What he Preached’, Times Higher Educational Supplement, 18 June 1982, pp.12-13
Robert Melville, ‘The Last Eleven’, London Review of Books, 15 July-4 Aug. 1982, p.18
Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1982-4, London 1986, pp.330-6, repr.
Ann Buchanan Crosby, ‘Souvenir de Adrian Stokes’, Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, no.25, autumn 1988, pp.9-12

Adrian Stokes painted eleven still lifes between early September 1972, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, and his death on 15 December. Of the series of eleven works, nine belong to the Tate and this is the second of these and fourth of the series. A fuller account of the series, details of its circumstances and problems in dating may be found in the catalogue entry of Still Life: Last Eleven (No.3) (Tate T03587).

For an earlier Tate Gallery catalogue the artist’s widow, Ann Stokes Angus, proposed an order for the eleven paintings in the series.[1] Though only one, No.10 (Tate T03585), was dated by the artist, she secured the position of No.3 and No.4 by means of their appearance. She initially suggested that they preceded Stokes’s visit to hospital, between 18 and 21 September 1972, and subsequent Cortisone treatment as she saw them as ‘dark ... unhappy, rather desperate pictures’, but finally concluded that they were painted later, unless he ‘put David’s [David Plante, No.1] aside & did 2, 3 & 4, as I have said, before the hospital’. She noted that Stokes improved both No.3 and No.4, ‘but mainly repainted [the latter] which he felt a lot for’.[2]


Unlike the other Tate works, which were painted on prepared canvases, No.4 was painted on a commercially prepared canvasboard which is attached to a blockboard panel by steel clips. As in the others the density of the oil paint varies from very thin washes to isolated areas of impasto, a few of which are unusually thick for Stokes, and there are areas of bare ground at the edges. A high thinner content gave the paint a largely matt finish and made runs and dribbles a feature of the technique. The colouring of all of the paintings is continuous with Stokes’s earlier work, though the lighter palette of a number of them is distinctive; No.4 is mostly a grey-brown with small areas of green, blue and white and No.6 has a similar colouring.

Chris Stephens
July 1998


[1] Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1982-4, London 1986, pp.330-6.
[2] Ann Stokes Angus, letter to Tate, 2 April 1986, Tate catalogue files.

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