James Boswell

Street Scene


Not on display

James Boswell 1906–1971
Ink, gouache, printed paper and graphite on paper
Support: 343 × 486 mm
Presented by Ruth Boswell, the artist's widow 1977

Catalogue entry

T02253 STREET SCENE c.1935–8

Not inscribed
Ink, gouache, pencil and collage on paper, 13 1/2 × 19 1/8 (34.1 × 48.4)
Presented by Ruth Boswell 1977

This collage appears to have been made between 1935 and 1938. There is no date in any of the newsprint used in the collage and with no inscriptions by the artist it is difficult to give an exact date. Boswell worked on Lilliput as art editor from 1947 to 1950, and this magazine had its offices in Shoe Lane which appears in the collage. But as Regent Street also appears in the collage, and as the shop sign ‘Maybelline’ is taken from the name of a 1930s cosmetic face-cream it would seem that the work is not from the 1940s and is in no sense a depiction of a particular place in London. Rather, it is a characterisation of London streets in general. The ‘Craven A’ advertisement dates from the mid-1930s, and James Fitton RA, a friend and colleague of Boswell's, dated the collage to 1934 or 1935. Richard Bennett, the former editor of Lilliput, dated it between 1936 and 1938. At this time Boswell produced illustrations for Left Review, mostly satirical and in a style which was indebted to George Grosz's drawings. The figures at street level are drawn in a very similar style. Collage was very unusual in Boswell's work, but Betty Boswell told the compiler that the artist kept piles of old magazines and newspapers from which these scraps could have been taken.

Boswell was very interested in cities and street life and often drew and painted views of parts of London. Betty Boswell said that he had always loved tall London houses, as they were so different from those that he had been brought up with in New Zealand. She discounted the possibility that ‘Loves and Ambitions’ might be a reference to the activities of the vicinity caricatured. His sketches and paintings of similar scenes have been published in Lilliput, XX, April 1947, ‘Portrait of a neighbourhood, four paintings by James Boswell’, Prisoner in the Bar, 1958, by Margaret Reynolds and Boswell's London, 1978, with an introduction by William Feaver.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979

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