Mary Sargant Florence

Children at Chess


In Tate Britain

Mary Sargant Florence 1857–1954
Tempera on wood
Support: 902 × 400 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1949

Display caption

Sargant Florence’s children are the subject of this painting. Philip (aged thirteen) and Alix (nine) are shown engrossed in their game. The interlocking composition excludes the viewer and there is little sentimentality. The flat treatment of the painted surface, heightened by the matt finish of egg tempera, focuses attention on the bold pattern of line and contrasted colours. Sargant Florence was a committed feminist. She encouraged her children to pursue their artistic talents. Alix later became a respected psychoanalyst, and Philip a celebrated economist.

Gallery label, October 2020

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Catalogue entry

N05960 CHILDREN AT CHESS c. 1903
Inscr. ‘Sargant-Florence’ b.l.
Tempera on wood, 35 1/2×15 3/4 (90×40).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1949.
Exh: N.E.A.C., winter 1910 (28), as ‘A Game of Chess’; N.E.A.C. Retrospective Exhibition, January–February 1925 (44), and Manchester, April–May 1925 (160); Venice Biennale, 1930 (British Pavilion, 197); N.E.A.C., Paris, June–July 1938 (89); R.A., 1950 (78).
Repr: Royal Academy Illustrated, 1950, p.34.

The children are the artist's son and daughter; the son, Dr Philip Sargant Florence, is Professor of Commerce, University of Birmingham, and the daughter, Alix, afterwards married James Strachey (subject of the portrait by Duncan Grant, N05765).

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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