Edward Wadsworth

Still Life

c.1926

Medium
Tempera and traced carbon on cardboard
Dimensions
Support: 356 x 251 mm
frame: 450 x 350 x 65 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Montague Shearman through the Contemporary Art Society 1940
Reference
N05147

Display caption

The shells in this work, set against the endless expanse of sea, can be seen as symbols of mortality. Wadsworth was fascinated by the sea, and painted maritime subjects throughout his life.

In the mid-1920s he turned from relatively naturalistic harbour scenes to enigmatic still lifes which suggest the dream-like unease of Surrealism. At the same time, he began to experiment with tempera, a method of painting using pigments mixed with egg. Tempera had been the principal painting technique before the introduction of oils in the fifteenth century.

Gallery label, July 2008

Catalogue entry

N05147 STILL LIFE c. 1926

Inscr. ‘Edward Wadsworth’ b.r.
Tempera and traced carbon outline on white-primed cardboard, 14×9 7/8 (35·5×25).
Bequeathed by Montague Shearman through the Contemporary Art Society 1940.

Coll: Probably purchased by Montague Shearman from the artist c. 1938–9.

Exh: Tooth's, April–May 1938 (30); Tate Gallery, February–March 1951 (12).

The artist began a series of experiments with tempera, of which he believed this to be one of the earliest, about 1926, to demonstrate the technique to Pierre Roy (letter from the artist, 6 September 1942). In the same year he abandoned landscape painting for still life, often employing elements in a quasi-Surrealist manner. It was in the October of this year that the Surrealist Manifesto appeared.

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