Ivor Abrahams

Winter Sundial


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Ivor Abrahams 1935–2015
Acrylic paint on paper
Image: 702 × 838 mm
Presented by Mme Andrée Stassart 1979

Catalogue entry

T02330 WINTER SUNDIAL 1971–5

Inscribed ‘Ivor Abrahams 75’ bottom left
Acrylic over screenprint on board glued to millboard, 27 5/8 × 33 (70.3 ×83.8)
Presented by Mme Andrée Stassart 1979
Prov: Purchased by Mme Stassart from Bernard Jacobson Ltd. at Basel Internationale Kunstmesse 1975
Exh: Bernard Jacobson Ltd., 1975 (no catalogue); Basel Internationale Kunstmesse, June 1975 (no catalogue)

Ivor Abrahams began work on the print ‘Summer Sundial’ (DP 7384) in 1971, using an illustration from Amateur Gardening which he had previously considered for one of the prints in the series. ‘Privacy Plots’ (1970–1). This small and poor quality illustration was rephotographed and enlarged, and used as the basis for five drawings, at least one of which (coll. Bernard Jacobson Ltd.) is dated 1971. Work was postponed during the preparation of the large print ‘Open Gate’, and resumed in 1974 on a larger scale. After ‘Summer Sundial’ was completed in 1975, the artist decided to make a second version of the same subject, and made T02330 as a preparatory study, painting over one of the early proofs. He at first intended that the ‘Winter Sundial’ print should include an area of flock, as does ‘Summer Sundial’, where the sundial itself and its base is printed on a separate piece of paper. The background lawn area of T02330 is cut with a knife, partly to keep the board flat when mounted and partly with reference to the possibility that this area would be cut away. In fact the print was made with few modifications from T02330, but on a larger scale, 40 × 47 (101.5 × 119.5) to match the ‘Summer Sundial’.

The garden subjects of Abrahams, beginning with the four prints ‘Garden Emblems’ (1967), consist primarily of the repertoire of garden sculpture, whether in the literal sense of statuary or as topiary or shrubbery. A sundial similar to that in T02330 is part of a ‘Garden Model’ the artist made in 1969 for the film ‘By Leafy Ways’ (1971), but the pair of prints and the related drawings are otherwise the only use he has made of one. This particular image is an example of what he calls ‘The Gardenesque’, the design of a suburban garden using elements - originally from eighteenth century gardens - intended to provoke a prescribed response by rule. Abrahams quotes with approval Bertolt Brecht's description of the artist's need to distance the spectator from the work so that the subjects look exceptional: ‘... distance and reflection are required ... to produce this disassociation in which the work can be recognised as what it is’ (Ivor Abrahams, catalogue of exhibition at Kölnischer Kunstverein, 1973, p.23). The recognition of ‘The Gardenesque’ as a ‘recipe or formula’ corresponds to Abrahams' stated interest in ‘the rules behind the rules’ (op.cit. p.18).

The seasonal change of a garden subject is shown in other works by Abrahams, the ‘summer’ and ‘autumn’ pair of print ‘For a Time, For a Season’ (1971) and, by implication, in the book Oxford Gardens, a sketchbook (1977) in which the photographs follow the seasons. There is often in his work a feeling that the garden sculpture is being enveloped by its surrounding shrubbery, and in the pair of sundial prints this relation between the unchanging sculpture and the extreme change of colour of the plants is dramatically emphasised.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981


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