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Not on display
N.H. Stubbing (Tony Stubbing) 1921–1983
Gouache, watercolour and crayon on paper
Image: 359 x 435 mm
Bequeathed by Ana Ricarda-Stubbing 2001


In 1949, the year of this painting, Stubbing was one of a number of artists, including Mathias Goeritz (born 1915), Eduardo Saura (1930-88) and Joan Miró (1893-1983), who met in the deep recesses of the Caves of Altamira in Northern Spain. Surrounded by colourful pictures of bison, wild boar and deer painted by the Magdalenian people between 19,000 and 16,000 BC, the group met to discuss the direction of contemporary art in the aftermath of World War II (1939-45). Although the ‘School of Altamira’ was short-lived, the sight of these prehistoric paintings was to profoundly influence the direction of Stubbing’s work.

Untitled is one of a number of works by Stubbing using the wax resist technique. After drawing the design on the paper with a wax crayon, Stubbing has applied water based mixtures, in this case gouache and watercolour, which do not adhere to the waxed portions of the piece. Gradually, therefore, the design shows through. The hieroglyphic marks are references to primitive art, a source frequently used by members of the Altamira group in their search for spirituality and meaning. Herbert Read commented on the Altamira cave paintings: ‘The meaning of these signs is unknown, but it is probable that they had some function in the magical rituals of prehistoric man ... they still convey a magical effect’ (quoted in The Tate Gallery 1986-1988, p.495).

Further reading:
Rituals: N. H. (Tony) Stubbing, exhibition catalogue, England & Co., London 1990
The Tate Gallery: 1986-1988 Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1996
N. H. (Tony) Stubbing Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, England & Co., London 2000

Heather Birchall

September 2002


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