Bernard Cohen

In That Moment


Not on display

Bernard Cohen born 1933
Oil paint and tempera on canvas
Support: 2438 × 2438 mm
Purchased 1965

Display caption

The image here is a single line which Cohen continued till the whole surface was covered. Changing the colours at random intervals, he painted it one stretch at a time, first by brush, in oil paint, and then by overspraying with an emulsion of oil and egg. This yielded a line with two distinct textures, each immaculate. As with 'Fall', also in this display, the title of this work refers to the French writer Albert Camus. Cohen admired Camus's belief in stoical persistence combined with acknowledgement of life's absurdity. In his philosophical essay 'The Myth of Sisyphus' (1942) Camus relates how 'The Gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would roll back of its own weight'. Adapting a phrase from Camus's essay, this picture's title refers to the moment when the unbroken line returns to the bottom edge of the canvas, where it began.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Technique and condition

In That Moment is painted on a cotton duck canvas that was stretched, sized and primed by the artist. To create the image Bernard Cohen applied a line of flake white oil paint and then sprayed modified egg tempera paint on top. He continued with a line of white, overlapping the first part and sprayed along it. Cohen continued this process until the whole surface was covered.

As the paint dried, fine cracks formed in the thin coloured films principally along the perimeter of each line, or where the underlying white paint was thickest.

A thin film of matt varnish was applied with a spray gun in 1966 in the Tate Conservation Department.

The painting is in good condition. It is protected on the reverse with a stretcher bar lining of polyester sailcloth. It is displayed in its original batten strip frame.

Mary A. Bustin
July 2003

Catalogue entry

Bernard Cohen b. 1933

T00800 In That Moment 1965

Inscr. ‘Bernard Cohen In that Moment October 1965’ on back of canvas.
Oil and egg-tempera on canvas, 96¼ x 95¾ (244.5 x 243).
Purchased from the artist through Kasmin Ltd. (Grant-in- Aid) 1965.
Exh: Venice Biennale, 1966 (British Pavilion 3, repr. in illustrated catalogue).
Repr: Art and Artists, I, June 1966, p. 34 in colour (colours much too red and should be greener).

Like several other paintings of the same period, ‘In that Moment’ consists of a single line broken only by being crossed by itself. The line was first painted in oil paint by brush, then over-painted in egg-tempera applied in a concentrated spray: the whole was then sprayed with ‘Acryla’ matt varnish. The artist has stated that the subject-matter of this and related paintings is in part the actual process of executing the painting and of covering the picture area, in which the progress of the line gains a momentum of its own.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1965–1966, London 1967.

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