Eileen Agar

Fish Basket


Not on display

Eileen Agar 1899–1991
Wicker, shell and wood on cardboard base
Object: 380 × 330 × 330 mm
Purchased 1993

Technique and condition

Fish Basket is an assembled sculpture comprising six elements some found and some created by the artist.

A rustic wicker basket made of thirty-four steamed sticks of bent willow and lashed with split canes make the form of the basket. This is laid on its side and secured to a rectangular piece of corrugated cardboard with obvious blobs of discoloured synthetic glue. A pencilled location line drawn by the artist on the top face of the card is visible below the basket. Within the encircled handle and belly of the basket is a bivalve shell, a light brown coloured gourd with a knobbly surface, conjoined and painted wood draughtsmen’s curbs which protrude between the fifteenth and sixteenth spars of the basket, and a painted and shaped shrimp made of fibreboard. These loose elements are placed in prescribed positions when the sculpture is installed.

There is evidence, in the adhesive residue, that the shrimp was originally stuck to the basket, the passage of time has weakened and detached these bonds. There is a considerable amount of yellowing adhesive on the smooth side of the shrimp’s curved body, whisker and the centre front of the basket. Numerous small areas of paint loss and scuffs are on the tail edge and red body of the shrimp and at several sites on the curbs. The three conjoined curbs, which are bonded together below the paint with obvious blobs of adhesive, might have been used as a negative stencil; they are hand painted crudely with several layers of artist’s oil paint in shades of blue, green and red. One curb had its end broken and missing before being painted. The manufacturers impressed inscription 14 MADE IN ENGLAND is on the red/ brown side of the central curb. The split cane, lashing the basket together, has become loose, probably caused by the historic desiccation of the material. There are some discoloured marks and surface losses on the gourd and shell. The cardboard base has well worn edges with minor separation of the corrugated layers.

There is no artist’s inscription.

The sculpture has to be displayed under controlled relative humidity in a closed microclimate to maintain the wooden elements in their present condition.

Sandra Deighton
September 2005

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