Merlyn Oliver Evans

The Conquest of Time


Merlyn Oliver Evans 1910–1973
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1016 × 816 mm
frame: 1182 × 990 × 61 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1966

Display caption

Evans’s complex interlocking forms were inspired by his study of the natural world. The artist described how he wanted to explore the timelessness of art by thinking of a kingfisher, which waits motionless beside a flowing river, occasionally plucking a fish from it. His abstract bird form is painted in subdued colours and set against a plain background to suggest stillness and isolation. His work became associated with the surrealist art movement when The Conquest of Time was exhibited in the International Surrealist Exhibition held in London in 1936.

Gallery label, March 2019

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

Merlyn Evans 1900-1973

T00830 The Conquest of Time 1934

Inscr.‘Evans 34’ b.r.
Tempera on panel, 40 x 32¼ (102 x 81.5).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1966.
Exh. International Surrealist Exhibition, New Burlington Galleries, June–July 1936 (98); Nine Abstract Artists, Lefevre Gallery, March 1939 (39); Whitechapel Art Gallery, October–November 1 956 (8, repr.); McRoberts and Tunnard, October 1963 (1); Art in Britain 1930–40, Marlborough Fine Art, March–April 1965 (19);R.A., 1966 (524).
Repr. International Surrealist Bulletin, No. 4, September 1936, p. 12; Herbert Read, Surrealism, 1937, pl. 34.

According to the artist (notes, 9 August 1967), The subject is the Conquest of Time. The central image is ornithomorphic and presents Timelessness’. He explained in conversation that the reference is to the kingfisher, still beside the moving river, who occasionally plucks a fish from it, and that the theme relates to the possibility of an art which is timeless, as classical Greek art was. The reduction of colour and the isolation of the image within the field of the picture are part of the expression of timelessness.

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

You might like