Ivor Abrahams

Stone Bench


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Ivor Abrahams 1935–2015
Lithograph on paper
Image: 555 × 515 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.

P11119 Stone Bench 1975

Lithograph 555 × 515 (21 7/8 × 20 1/4) on wove paper 605 × 640 (23 3/4 × 25 1/4); printed by Ian Lawson and published by Bernard Jacobson Ltd; one of 5 artist's proofs aside from the edition of 70
Inscribed ‘Ivor Abrahams 75’ below image b.l. and ‘AP.’ below image b.r.

This image shows part of an empty stone bench against the background of a tall dark green hedge. Behind the hedge are trees, drawn freely with lighter green marks. The garden scene is devoid of human life, but the ornateness of the urn in the centre of the image indicates the presence of art in the midst of nature.

The print is based on an image seen in a gardening book, the title of which the artist can no longer remember. The same image inspired a sculpture, ‘Stone Bench’, 1975 (repr. Ivor Abrahams, exh. cat., Aktiongalerie, Bern 1975, front cover in col.), and the etching ‘Works Past III’, 1976 (see entry on P11128). In conversation with the compiler on 13 September 1994 the artist commented, ‘By that time I was beginning to run some of the same ideas through different media’. He added that he had in his collection a drawing on the same subject, executed towards the end of the 1970s, which, he said, was ‘dark in every sense’. ‘The entrance on the right and the open ended left side, with the vacant seat, made the image important to me.’

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

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