Ivor Abrahams



In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Ivor Abrahams 1935–2015
Lithograph on paper
Image: 829 × 622 mm
image: 785 × 610 mm
Presented by Evelyne Abrahams, the artist's wife 1986

Catalogue entry

Group of ninety-eight screenprints, lithographs and etchings, various sizes [P11099-P11196; incomplete]

Presented by Evelyne Abrahams, the artist's wife 1986

This group of prints was bequeathed to Evelyne Abrahams by the artist's parents, Harry and Rachel Abrahams, on the understanding that she would present it to the Tate Gallery on their behalf. It represents the greater part of the artist's printmaking to date. Other works by Abrahams in the collection are a sculpture entitled ‘Lady in a Niche’, 1973 (T03369), a work on paper entitled ‘Winter Sundial’, 1975 (T02330), and a small number of prints: ‘The Garden Suite’, 1970 (P04001-P04005), ‘Sundial I (Summer)’, 1975 (P07384) and ‘Untitled’ [from the artist's book Oxford Gardens: A Sketchbook], 1977 (P08150).

Abrahams is primarily a sculptor, and many of his prints relate to particular sculptures. In the period 1967–79 Abrahams focused on garden imagery, exploring the relationship between art, artifice and nature. Many of the images used in early prints were based on small, relatively poor quality photographs of gardens reproduced in gardening magazines, such as the weekly Amateur Gardening and Popular Gardening, or, less frequently, better quality illustrations found in the series of volumes on gardens published by Country Life in the 1920s. This use of second-hand source material gives much of his printed output a conceptual quality, and links his work to Pop art. Abrahams has presented a large amount of source material relating to his printmaking of this period, including magazine clippings, photographs and sketches and acetate stencils, to the Tate Gallery Archive (TGA 8315).

The critical and commercial success of ‘The Garden Suite’ (P04001-P040054), published in 1970, helped establish Abrahams' name internationally, and in the following decade he went on to produce a significant body of prints, making approximately one print a month. The dealer Bernard Jacobson published many of his portfolios, and the Mayor Gallery organised a series of touring shows of prints and sculptures. In this period Abrahams was based in London, working at a studio in Leonard Street, EC2, from 1969 to 1982, and at the A & A Foundry in Bow from 1982 to 1992, with a second studio at Butler's Wharf from 1974 to 1979.

In 1979 Abrahams abandoned the garden theme for which he had become well known and focused instead on water-based imagery, using bathers and nymphs which were inspired in part by the landscape, myths and folk customs associated with the South of France. Abrahams and his French wife bought a home in Pézenas, in the Languedoc, in 1973, where he used the cellar as a studio. In 1988 they bought a house in the small village, Castelnau de Guers, in the same region, and have lived there on a full-time basis since 1992.

Unless otherwise stated, all quotations by the artist in the following entries are taken from a taped interview with the compiler held on 18 August 1994. The entries have been approved by the artist.

P11191 Diptych 1981

Lithograph on wove paper, same size in two parts, left 829 × 622 (32 5/8 × 24 1/2), right 785 × 610 (30 7/8 × 24); overall size 829 × 1232 (32 5/8 × 48 1/2); printed by Alan Cox at Sky Editions and published by Bernard Jacobson Ltd in an edition of 49 plus 5 artist's proofs
Inscribed ‘Ivor Abrahams 81’ bottom centre across the two sheets and ‘26/49’ b.l. of left-hand sheet

This work consists of two irregularly shaped, separate sheets which are intended by the artist to be seen abutting each other so as to form a single image. The left sheet depicts a red partial female figure who is energetically striding or running. Facing her is a brown partial female figure, who is bending forward and wears a long skirt that comes to the bottom edge of the right-hand sheet of paper. Parts of both figures project beyond the basic rectangular shape of the sheets of paper. This creates the impression that they are separate from the background, which is printed in two shades of green. A subtle outlining of the figures enhances this illusion of three-dimensionality. In conversation with the compiler on 4 October 1994 the artist said this image reflected his interest in classical friezes. In an interview of 1986, Abrahams commented that he had recently been exploring ‘in my work on paper and prints and drawings the serialisation of imagery in the form of the Frieze. In sculpted relief, movement from figure to figure in cinematic sequences continues to hold my interest’ (Bryan Robertson, ‘Introductory Note’ in Ivor Abrahams: An Exhibition of Sculpture. Models for Projects, exh. cat., Mayor Gallery 1986, [p.5]).

The left-hand figure wearing a red dress relates to an early plaster sculpture entitled ‘Red Riding Hood’, 1963 (repr. Ivor Abrahams, exh. cat., Bernard Jacobson Gallery 1994, p.23 in col.), in which a fragmented female form is shown with a modern red dress. The right-hand figure appears closely related to ‘Femme du Midi VI’, 1979 (see earlier entry, P11175). In conversation with the compiler on 28 September 1994 Abrahams said that the work had developed from a monotype that he had printed himself on his etching press in his home in Pézenas, France. The way in which the figures appear to break out the rectangular support echoes the composition of a shallow relief entitled ‘Bathers in Repose I’, 1980 (repr. Ivor Abrahams, exh. cat., Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wake-field 1984, p.31). In this work, which is made of laminated card on a wood support, two facing bathers stand much higher than the background, their bodies breaching the constraints of the rectangular support.

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996

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