Elsie Few

Wrapping Paper


Not on display

Elsie Few 1909–1980
Papers, crayon, paint and tar on board
Unconfirmed: 991 × 686 mm
Purchased 1981

Catalogue entry


Inscribed ‘Few. 77’ centre top
Collage of cut and torn papers, crayon, paint, tar, 39 3/4 × 25 1/2 (100 × 70)
Purchased from the Annexe Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1981
Prov: Crispin Rogers
Exh: Elsie Few, Annexe Gallery, March–April 1979 (8

Elsie Few made her first abstract collage of this kind in 1967, as a demonstration for a student at Gipsy Hill College, where she was head of the art department. During the 1970s these became her most important work. In 1970 she suffered a stroke, and found that as she was only able to work slowly she could most easily assemble the papers with the collage pinned to boards hanging beside her bed, so that she could contemplate the work in progress for a long time. ‘Wrapping Paper’ was made in this way, at her home in Highgate.

The collages made from 1967 were exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery in December 1973, with an explanatory note by the artist ‘About my Collage’ printed in the catalogue, the cover of which shows a photograph of her standing in front of the boards in her bedroom studio. The titles of almost all these, and of later examples, were figurative rather than abstract, and she explained that ‘Each of my collage begins with an emotional experience’ which is referred to in the title. A second exhibition of the collages was held at the Annexe Gallery in March–April 1979. The typescript catalogue quoted notes by the artist about four of them, including, for ‘Wrapping Paper’: ‘I am thinking of the parcels arriving at my home and the excitement of unpacking them. I have always had the greatest pleasure in this. In Jamaica when I was a child, a parcel was an event. My family was sent the Sears Roebuck catalogue and we went through it gleefully: there were often pictures of things we didn't know existed. We ordered from it. This did not happen often. My collage is made up of wrapping paper except for the brown ground which is hand-made japanese paper. The shape in black is a large envelope which enclosed some towels I sent for from an “offer” on an Alpen packet. The green paper wrapped up a patchwork cushion that I bought in Bury St Edmunds- this paper gives me much pleasure, both in colour and texture. The third paper, with its spattering of tar, Claude gave me. He thinks that it wrapped up a parcel that came to him from Reading when he retired.’

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

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