John Bratby

Susan Ballam


Not on display

John Bratby 1928–1992
Graphite on paper
Support: 1321 × 495 mm
Presented by Sir Edward and Lady Hulton 1957

Catalogue entry

T00154 SUSAN BALLAM 1956
Not inscribed.
Black chalk, 52×19 1/2 (132×49·5).
Purchased from the Beaux Arts Gallery (from a sum of money presented by Sir Edward and Lady Hulton) 1957.
Exh: Beaux Arts Gallery, December 1956–January 1957 (not numbered).

The artist wrote (31 October 1957): ‘Susan Ballam is of Zulu origin, and the drawing took two days to complete. Miss Ballam is not strictly speaking an artist's model, and was not very eager to pose for me, but I was very interested in her head, and after much persuasion she agreed to pose for me, and, surprisingly enough, in the nude. I thought that her Zulu blood was the cause of the peculiarly fierce appearance of her face and of the structure of her head, and I concentrated on those things in my drawing. The head seemed to have a wooden quality, a set quality like a Red Indian head, and it was this that I tried to draw. Whether I have succeeded or not is for you to judge, not me. The summer of 1956 was the time when this drawing was made.

Never before or after the making of this drawing, have I drawn such a face, which seemed to have a darkly glowing, fierce and passionate nature imprisoned in a head so set and wooden and so mask-like. You will find that I have concentrated on the head, more than on the body: it was the head that interested me primarily: with its great vitality and its stillness-contradictory qualities.’

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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