Peter Coker

Table and Chair


Not on display

Peter Coker 1926–2004
Oil paint and sand on fibreboard
Support: 1524 × 1219 mm
frame: 1583 × 1277 × 53 mm
Purchased 1981

Display caption

With its sober colours and cheerless interior, Table and Chair might seem the epitome of ‘kitchen sink’ painting. Yet the subject of the painting is the immediacy of physical objects rather than the trivial dreariness implicit in David Sylvester’s term. In order to achieve a sense of solidity, Coker used so much paint that the boy’s head actually slid off the canvas one night and had to be re-painted.

An unsentimental and objective attitude towards the facts of life, whether physical things or events, is evident in much social realist art.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry


Inscribed ‘Peter Coker’ bottom left and ‘TABLE AND CHAIR/60" × 48"/Peter Coker/1955’ on back of board
Oil paint and sand on fibre board, 60 × 48 (152.4 × 121.9)
Purchased from the artist (Knapping Fund) 1981
Prov: Dr de Newman (sold at Sotheby's, 3 April 1963, lot 158); bt. Guy des Rochers; Yale R. Burge, U.S.A.; Mrs Betty Burge Mennell, New York, 1981; the artist
Exh: Paintings by Peter Coker, Zwemmer Gallery, January 1956 (18); Peter Coker RA, The Minories, Colchester, October–November 1972 and tour to Bath, London and Sheffield (11, repr.)
Lit: Frederick Gore, catalogue introduction to Peter Coker RA, op.cit. (n.p.); Nicholas Coker, catalogue introduction to Peter Coker: Paintings and Drawings of the Butcher's Shop, University of Liverpool, 1977

T03302 and the studies for it T03307-T03311 are catalogued here together.

'Table and Chair’ originally contained neither the figure of the boy (the artist's son) nor the sheep's head, but a dead hare on the table, based on the drawings T03307 and T03308. A contemporary photograph of Coker sitting in front of the painting in its original state is reproduced in the catalogue of his travelling retrospective of 1972–3. the sheep's head was later substituted for the hare, suggesting a contrast between the live and enquiring face of the child and the impassive face of the dead animal.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984

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