Sir William Coldstream

Nude, Camberwell


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Sir William Coldstream 1908–1987
Graphite on paper
Image: 128 × 168 mm
Presented by Joshua L. Mack 2000


Before the outbreak of World War II (1939-45), Coldstream had founded with Graham Bell (1910-43), Claude Rogers (1907-79) and Victor Pasmore (1908-98) the art school in London that became known as the Euston Road School. These artists encouraged a straightforward, realist style, in reaction, in part, against Surrealism and Abstraction. Although they disbanded after the outbreak of the war, Coldstream remained close to the style and philosophy of the school in his own work and in his teaching at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in London where he was based between 1945 and 1949. Although many of the Euston Road artists painted subjects from urban life, they were also committed to traditional subjects including still lifes, landscapes and the nude. These became a recurring theme throughout Coldstream's career.

Coldstream wrote 'Camberwell / 1945-48' on this small drawing, and it was probably made in the Life Room while he was teaching there. He devised a method of visual measurements for his drawing and painting. This is a quick sketch, but there is already a series of five pencil dots across the model's neck, which register some points of reference. Writing an account of her sittings with Coldstream in 1977, one model remarked 'He used several methods of measuring: the standard practice of holding up the brush with one eye closed, and sometimes his own plumb-line-in the tube of paint on the end of a string. Quite often he would pick up a long ruler and hold it against the canvas' (Rumley, p.85). The drawing shows a modesty and sensitivity in its appearance which is characteristic of Coldstream's work.

In 1952 Coldstream was commissioned by his friend Adrian Stokes (1902-72) to paint Seated Nude (Tate T03704). Coldstream had not completed a painting of a nude since 1938. It is not known whether he ever intended to make a painting from this drawing.

Further reading:
Lawrence Gowing and David Sylvester, The Paintings of William Coldstream 1908-1987, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1990
Peter Rumley, Sir William Coldstream Catalogue Raisonné 1926-1983 and Artistic Career 1908-1945, Thesis (PhD.) University of Sussex, 1986

Heather Birchall
February 2002

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